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Author Topic: How GNS Failure killed a group (long)  (Read 1513 times)
Ace
Member

Posts: 204


« on: September 30, 2002, 11:05:09 AM »

I thought I'd share the recent collapse of my gaming group with folks here.

The group I have been playing with is pretty diverse ranging in age from 21 to 41 and in gaming style

Our group has three problems,

1-Player retention -- we always seem short one player from our comfort number. We have tried to add more but they never seem to mesh with the group

2- Too many Wannabe GM's. From what I have been able to figure out this problem is pretty uncommon. Out of the full roster of six, 4 of us want to GM. We usually got around this by alternating games

3- GNS issues. We have people from all of the spectrum including one of the most gamist players I have ever met, 2 casual gamers  and three various sim oriented ones (including me)

We seemed to find solutions for most of these issues until two weeks ago issue #3 killed the group (which had been going on and off for quite a while )  

We resolved issue #1 by ignoring it basically.We could get by OK with as little as 3 of us present at anyone time. So if Real Life intervened, no problem. We could if necessary switch to a game in which that players character wasn't important (usually our conflict driven D&D game)

Issue 2 was a bit of a problem at first but it was resolved when I decided not to run and the other wannabe GM decided more campaign planning was in order. With only two GM's we could alternate between L5R (which I was not in) and D&D. This worked pretty well, although there was always a sense of I guess, restlessness  with the non GM's and of course the after game chatter about "the next campaign"

Than came issue #3
This is where are groups diversity hurt us. Of our core six players we had One hard core gamist and various others in combination including two casual gamers who haven't quite decided on a style

We were playing D&D, staring as Pyrates at 2nd level. That game seemed to go OK.
As I got burned out on it I took a break (once) and quit for a while  when my character was killed.
However one of the younger players who just turned 21, Lets call him E, was, unknown to me getting burned out. Like me he was a heavy sim player.
For quite a while he was running Legend of the Five Rings, alternating with the D&D game.
I figured this would satisfy his need for sim/char-- How wrong I was

A month ago a couple of the players (E  and the oldest guy  M who was as pure a gamist as I have ever met) went to a LARP

Something happened there, M had a decent time went gain and decided he would rather play the table top game. Interestingly he did a very gamist thing and compteted (and won) best costume. Types will tell sometimes

 E however found the LARP great fun  It also had another more insidious effect.

It amplified his disatisfaction with the heavily conflict oreinted D&D  game. Since the E was already taking a break from running  the L5r game (real life and all) so he was left with no outlet for his prefered game style.

Tan it all came down

Two weeks ago there was a some confusion about whether we were going to meet or not.
Being unsure and not knowing until the last minute E decided to go to the LARP.

 As I thought there were clear plans I phoned him to find out what had happened.
  E explained his disastifaction with the game. I asked "should I share this with M and the others?" as I  usually handle communication and planning when there is a snag .
E agreed and then cut loose with a littany of complaints

When I shared the toned down version there was an eruption, M felt betrayed and presonally attacked, his Jist "If you don't like my game and its style you don't have to play"

My attempt to smooth things over was a failure, partailly because there was personal baggage between E and M and partially becuase no one had a common vocabulary to discuss things with.

The result --- One  good D&D session with a decent amount of Rolplaying (just for M to prove it to himself and maybe the rest us that he could roleplay-- but not E who ironcally was at the LARP) and the group split apart

M and one other players are going to hunt up some players for Star Wars D20 and E and his three friends left

E is continuing the LARP, One is loyal to E and games just to hang around with E and other one B also had GNS dissatisfaction but didn't tell anyone.
B surprised me with that  (not the first time with him) but at least I knew at that point

As for me, I am out of the a game for a while but if/when E starts his Fusion System "ROON" game I will join him, or I may end up running Buffy for them

The moral of this long story

Good communication and detachement are essential to the well being of the gaming group.

Our group lacked the detachement (its not you, its the game) and the vocabulary and communication skills needed to solve these problems.

Our rotation of GMs/Games etc and the fact that we liked one another outside of gaming helped hold the group together but it wasn't enough to weather a crises (the stress of E going to school, the old baggage and sudden presence of the LARP)

Thats why I think it failed.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2002, 12:19:46 PM »

Hi Anthony,

I agree with you that the GNS issues seem to be a big part of all this, and your discussion seems to cover all the angles of that level. The LARP's role seems to me to parallel what happened during the Magic phase - people realizing that this other game (in Magic's case, wargaming) was really what they wanted. Seems like a good thing to me, actually.

I think, though, that certain social issues need to be considered too, maybe beyond the usual valid-but-vague "communication" recommendation.

1) Trading off GMs, each with his own game, has never contributed to long-term group success in my experience, especially if it represents a compromise in the first place. I think it would work only if each game was equally appreciated at each session by each person, which seems like a lot to hope for.

That's distinct from team-GMing a single game, or a series of short-term games run by various people in the group (but each one done one at a time). Both of these work pretty well. I'm talking about what you describe, in which "the group" is engaged in two wholly separate role-playing games, with different GMs, in which ongoing sessions are played alternately.

2) It seems to me as if you were stuck in the middle as the communicator between the guy who didn't come to play and everyone else, which is a pretty untenable position - and hints, perhaps, that there's a basic rift in people simply talking to one another.

The more-or-less set social rule I and my friends tend to go by is that if someone can't come, then no one plays (small groups), and - and this is the point - the person who can't come is the one responsible for telling everyone else, before the day we were planning to play. We don't always succeed at this, but it's the usual way.

But never mind us, back to you guys. Basically, you got the privilege of being the one guy's messenger to unload this catalogue of bitching he'd obviously been hoarding. That strikes me as kinda wrong at the social level, especially since his absence was unexpected to the bunch of folks who'd planned to play that day, and also since he was sending a "and I won't be here ever again" message as well.

3) Finally, one thing I don't understand, quite, is how the group is to be considered "killed." After all, the L5R game is still extant, right? And there are at least a couple of people who remain available, if I'm counting on my fingers right. Why not snap up a couple of them, start there, and make a group? So your group, so to speak, wouldn't be killed at all.

Anyway, those were my musings. Anyone else thinkin' about this stuff?

Best,
Ron
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jdagna
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2002, 02:52:50 PM »

Ace,

Perhaps the most important difference in gaming styles was less in the GNS area and more in the combat preference area?

People tend to equate Gamism with in-game combat, but that isn't necessarily the case.  I've known Gamists who liked mysteries and the competition was essentially over who would figure it out first.  Palladium's system may have tons of flaws, but their experience system is a sure-fire way to get a Gamist to role-play and cooperate with the group in order to "win" the most experience.

Regardless of GNS style, some people like games to focus on different aspects of role-playing.  

Some people want every game to work like a Scharzenegger action movie.  "Oh, look, the bad guys we killed had a map to their headquarters."  

Others like to have puzzles - a GM I sometimes play with drives me nuts when he expects me to decode ciphers by hand because he thinks it's fun.  He's always flabbergasted when my character responds by calling up the local university to hire a grad student to do it.
Some people are happy as clams doing nothing but role-playing an in-character discussion over the weather, the quality of ale and whether this barmaid is prettier than the last one.  In fact, I ran into an IRC-based game with no rules and no formal characters where you did NOTHING ELSE!  That chat channel had a dozen people in it 24/7.

You and E seemed put off by the "conflict-oriented" D&D campaign (one I'm assuming M ran).  You don't say what you'd prefer except to chalk it up to Sim tendencies, but I've known Sim players who chose to play mercenaries or bodyguards in order to explore the combat elements of system or setting.  Maybe the issue is one of genre or plot and less of GNS modes - not that it makes the issue any less significant.

In any event, you end your message in a very down tone.  It sounds like you may have lost some friends and I hope the conflict doesn't disrupt the out of game friendships you and the others had.

However, it sounds to me like a positive thing has happened in a traumatic way.  You've got yourself, a potential GM and at least one other player who have indicated similar playing styles and in my book, that's the core of a group right there.  If you can scrounge up one or two more people, you're in business and likely to start having more fun more often than you ever did before.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
Ace
Member

Posts: 204


« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2002, 04:46:53 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Anthony,

SNIP

I think, though, that certain social issues need to be considered too, maybe beyond the usual valid-but-vague "communication" recommendation.

1) Trading off GMs, each with his own game, has never contributed to long-term group success in my experience, especially if it represents a compromise in the first place. I think it would work only if each game was equally appreciated at each session by each person, which seems like a lot to hope for.

That's distinct from team-GMing a single game, or a series of short-term games run by various people in the group (but each one done one at a time). Both of these work pretty well. I'm talking about what you describe, in which "the group" is engaged in two wholly separate role-playing games, with different GMs, in which ongoing sessions are played alternately.





Thats an interesting thought Ron! Thank you  
I thought that GM switching was   a way to allow more variety and furfill more than one persons needs. For us (with 4 wanna-be GM's) it seemed the thing to do. Let me consider what you said before I say more

SNIP


Quote


But never mind us, back to you guys. Basically, you got the privilege of being the one guy's messenger to unload this catalogue of bitching he'd obviously been hoarding. That strikes me as kinda wrong at the social level, especially since his absence was unexpected to the bunch of folks who'd planned to play that day, and also since he was sending a "and I won't be here ever again" message as well.




Those were good rules, there were two reasons I was willing to facilitate communication as I did

First The player E is on a fixed income and can't call long distance to where M lives

Second M is just unwilling to call E until the last minute. I like him as a aperson but as a gamer, well he is always late to appointments and does verything at the last minute. If he weren't providing transportation (something I can't do) and being good natured about it I would have kicked him out

Most of the problems came from M in this case. Yes E didn't show up but there was pathetically little coordiantion of schedules and it was M who wanted to stop the game, Not E who was glad to continue L5r at a later point. Sorry if I was unclear  

Quote

 
3) Finally, one thing I don't understand, quite, is how the group is to be considered "killed." After all, the L5R game is still extant, right? And there are at least a couple of people who remain available, if I'm counting on my fingers right. Why not snap up a couple of them, start there, and make a group? So your group, so to speak, wouldn't be killed at all.


Best,
Ron


Well that configuration and campaign is gone.
 Since M threw a fit and may not want to play with E for a while, and the other player left  E won't be running L5R.

I think E, 2 other guys and I will start something else. Sorcerer is actually possible with these guys as is The Riddle of Steel something M will not go for.  
If the schedules get coordinated we can two more excellent players and thats plenty (too many for Sorcerer actually) and we can play Buffy. When I last spoke to them they asked if I would run so we will see.

Thanks for the feedback
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Ace
Member

Posts: 204


« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2002, 04:56:40 PM »

Quote from: jdagna
Ace,

Perhaps the most important difference in gaming styles was less in the GNS area and more in the combat preference area?


You and E seemed put off by the "conflict-oriented" D&D campaign (one I'm assuming M ran).  You don't say what you'd prefer except to chalk it up to Sim tendencies, but I've known Sim players who chose to play mercenaries or bodyguards in order to explore the combat elements of system or setting.  Maybe the issue is one of genre or plot and less of GNS modes - not that it makes the issue any less significant.

In any event, you end your message in a very down tone.  It sounds like you may have lost some friends and I hope the conflict doesn't disrupt the out of game friendships you and the others had.

However, it sounds to me like a positive thing has happened in a traumatic way.  You've got yourself, a potential GM and at least one other player who have indicated similar playing styles and in my book, that's the core of a group right there.  If you can scrounge up one or two more people, you're in business and likely to start having more fun more often than you ever did before.


I think you are right on the money. Neither E nor I are that intereted in combat in the game. We enjoy a good fight now and then but one every 3-5 sessions is enough

 E once remarked to me that one of the best and most satisfying combats he ever had in a game was a duel that I ran.

Basically there were a few blows than the bad guy was foot swepped and the hero had his sword at hois throat Curiously E loves Streetfighter  but I have a hunch there isn't much combat as the name implies :)

With M its also a system issue, only D&D provides enough buffer to allow the level of combat that he wants in a game without charcter fatalities.

We tried GURPS a few times and the Riddle once, neither were very sucessfull for various reasons

As far a OOG friendships, I think those will be fine.

As to you last point, I agree the new group when it gets running will be much better. I look forward to better games

Anthony
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2002, 06:34:19 PM »

Hi Anthony,

If you'll forgive me going so far as to make a direct recommendation, I suggest keeping the group down to E, you, and the other two guys, without adding anyone else.

For - oh, all sorts of reasons.

Best,
Ron
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Ace
Member

Posts: 204


« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2002, 06:43:10 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Anthony,

If you'll forgive me going so far as to make a direct recommendation, I suggest keeping the group down to E, you, and the other two guys, without adding anyone else.

For - oh, all sorts of reasons.

Best,
Ron


I apppreciate your advice on this Ron

I do feel however that 5 players is optimal for some of the games we want to do. Also the 2 players  intereted in Buffy are really really good and I want them in the group, a lot.

I would be interested in why you feel 3 players is a better  number than five though
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2002, 06:51:27 PM »

Hey,

I'll start by saying that you know what you want best, so all of the following is based totally on my own preferences, not intended as a recommendation unless they turn out to match yours after all.

So, why a four-person group instead of a six-person one?

1) Less plain logistics to manage in terms of location, travel, and scheduling, with 33% less chance that someone has to or wants to do something else that night.

2) During play, it's harder to hide, or conversely, there's more spotlight to enjoy being in. In my experience, the members of a four-person-total group are almost always engaged in what's going on, and play proceeds with breaks for everyone once in a while, rather than continuously but with one person guaranteed to be on break while the others are playing.

3) More explicit social and in-game expectations, which is kind of a mix between #1 and #2. People's preferences or degree of emotional engagement are more out in the open and there's room, if you will, to comment on one another's play (hopefully positively) because there isn't going to be a side conversation going on.

Oh well. I guess all of the above issues work fine for a lot of people in bigger groups, but in my experience, when I hit five players is when the troubles of the above sort begin to show up, when we're talking about extended, scheduled play. Three or four works perfectly for me, whether I'm a GM or a player.

Best,
Ron
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Ian Cooper
Member

Posts: 126


« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2002, 04:08:51 AM »

Quote
That's distinct from team-GMing a single game, or a series of short-term games run by various people in the group (but each one done one at a time). Both of these work pretty well. I'm talking about what you describe, in which "the group" is engaged in two wholly separate role-playing games, with different GMs, in which ongoing sessions are played alternately.


We have tended to use team GMing in our Hero Wars game (with one GM as 'producer' in charge of co-ordinating the 'seasons' episodes) with a fair amount of success. However there is always the slight feeling of treading on each others toes (I can feel it sometimes, I'm mature enough to dismiss it, but I know it is there), but that can have the positive side of encouraging you to recognize that play sessions are about shared authorship. Worth a try, and practically it helps keep the prep burden of just one person. I can recommend it as a possible solution.

However a couple of the regulars are keen to play a Lunar game, instead of our Orlanthi Dragon Pass game. So we are going to run two games. Now both games are Hero Wars, but I will be interested to see how this pans out. There is the possibility that the two games will compete, which is my main concern.

Still we talk about he issues failry well as a group, so hopefully we can resolve anything this throws at us.
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Eric J.
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2002, 10:15:17 PM »

I've expericenced the same problems.  It also explains why I haven't been contributing my "guinistic mind" (sarcastic) to Forge discussion.  It's the same with one exception.  There are seven people.  It was Jessie who started.  He redid Star Wars D6 to create a Dune campaign where I was, against my wishes, forced with two fremen and a Bessie Gesorit (I couldn't have spelled it worse) to raid a compound.  It was confusing, the way the Bessie Gesorit was limited in power without the use of mechanics... Anyway: Then there was another ones campaign.  He basically said that we were in an adventuring group.  We checked the local poster and he just, out of the blue, came up with a quest, and we went.  The two other party members fought over something stupid and so the GM ripped one of their character sheets up.  No fun.  Then to top it off, this guy named Cody, who has every third edition material imaginable (2 copys of the DMG, 2: Players' handbook) decided to take all of my friends into a premade adventure in "some world".  They got drunk and were sent into a dungeon by a lazy omniponent cleric.  Despite my detailed background my character was forced to shovel horse shit untill he was introduced.  This was between the other 5 players' banter.  And who could forget Anthonie's stream of adventures....

My point is make the group smaller.  Make the wannabe GMs relise what they are and use them as players.

And Ron, I actually, before the forge, found out what you described in your last post in this thread.  I find 3 people to be the minimum, 4 the optimum, and 6 the maximum for productive play.  It's only by sheer coincidence that the local RPG group has about 11 people.
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