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Author Topic: Observations on a very succesfull game group (Long)  (Read 1840 times)

Posts: 204

« on: October 14, 2002, 01:35:49 PM »

Over the last few months I have been keeping an eye on a local game group.
This group games in the same FLGS that my group does and they are by my definition a very sucessfull group.
They meet every week on time, everyone who can shows up and they seem to have a great time.
They have doing  this for about twenty years with a variety of players, all on the same "world", using heavily patched D&D

I wanted to know how  they did it.  As I watched them and conversed with the DM I learned the following

#1 The group is really big. I have seen as many as nine players at any given time. This hasn't been a problem largely because of the play style.

This game  resembles IMO a tournamnet game more than anything else.
Basically each session has two or three long combats.
 Afterwords there is looting and a "social reward" system where experienced titles are ganted lands, followers and so on as appropriate. After that the charcters become part of the background and continue to play in different and fairly interesting ways

#2 There is a huge variety of weird character types including Cat Men, Klingonized Dwarves, Gnolls, Dragons and more. This doesn't hurt the game at all for some reason.

#3 There are no GNS conflicts afaict. Everyone there wants the  "gamist" style  game and most of the players want to participate in the meta campaign as well.

I think this is the main reason for sucess myself.

#4 There is only one DM.  D. Balrog  and he  is the only DM period.

On leader many players  Very occasionally there may be a guest DM but unlike my group there is a clear heirarchy
 D. Balrog is the DM and everyone else is a players.
Now DB does get burned out from time to time. His  mechanism seems to be playing a second game run my my friend M and the very occasional break.
 DB seems to like D&D a great deal and plays three times a week (note his on the shy end of 50  unmarried and a substitute teacher so he has time)
The conflicts we have had (4 wannabe GM's and 2 players) seems to be avoided in this manner. All of us seem to be jockying for control at different times or day dreaming of the next game we will run

#5They seems to have a social correction mechanism of some kind in operation. Some of the players, are how shall we put it, social misfits. These are the kind of people I consider mentally ill and don't want at my table.
The are however model players under DB hand. Now this group has had troubles before (poor hygienne from some gamers and general noise and rudeness) but after a warning from the store owner the have manged to correct the problems and never have to be warned twice about anything

#6 Chatter curbing. After each session the group meets at Dennys to discuss the game and socialize. This is something we do and it doesn't help us but thats OK I enjoy the chatter more than the game

#7  The players satisfaction is very  high among the regulars.
Some of the more normal types in the group seem to get fed up from time to time but it never keeps them away from the table.
Interstingly DB is rather heavy handed at times and his DMing has a Hackmasterish quality about it. The players don't seem to mind

One of my  group members 'C' also plays with this group.  When M asked him about why he wouldn't leave that group for a proposed Sunday game  his reply is most enlightening "Its because the group is one of the only ones that meets consistently"

I mentioned this to E in my group and he replied "Dude thats because they have no lives" That may be true on a pure gaming volume issue but it isn't the reason for the groups success

While DB's game would likely make me dispeptic in the long run  I have to admire his techniques and wish I could adopt a few of the applicable ones for my group.
Eric J.

Posts: 396

« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2002, 07:41:19 PM »

I have a gaming group that closelley resembles the one that you described, except that they usually have about 10 players.  They are very well equiped, with handbooks, dice ect.  The style of play is almost entirelley gamist, but there are a few flaws...

1.  They remake their characters on a bi-weekley basis.

2.  Their character death total is higher than my character life total.

3.  They randomly choose your race, class, and allignment for you.

4.  If your character dies, they are immidietelley replaced by a class-race combination that is parrellel to yours.

5.  They roll to see who the party leader is.

So, is Eric here to badmouth a group that he doesn't like?  Well yes, but more importantly than that, Eric is trying to bring up the fact that success can be an illusion.  I don't know how 10 players can be satisfied with conditions like that.  I could be wrong.  Your D&D group is probably better than this one, but they seem to have the same strengths and weaknesses.  What you could be seeing is a group of people who are greatley devoted to RPGing but lack to skills to Gamemaster or the experience to try another game.  

I have dailey discussions about this, and my player who goes to that gaming group continually tells me that the group in question plays for fun.  So naturally I inquire further to understand this.  He tells me repetivalley that GNS is crap and that I'm making RPGs to complex.  This is simply another style and I respect that.  I can't end this without sacrificing the slight lack of rambliness that I already have, so I'll stop here.

Edited: For saying something so remarkably stupid as I did.  Sorry for throwing off the following post.
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2002, 10:55:28 PM »

2. The player death total is higher than my player life total.

I hope you're referring to player character death, and not players :P

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2002, 06:43:29 AM »

Hi Anthony & everyone,

I've been thinking about this thread a lot. Here are the phrases I finally fixated upon:

Anthony: There are no GNS conflicts afaict. Everyone there wants the "gamist" style game and most of the players want to participate in the meta campaign as well. ... I think this is the main reason for sucess myself.

Eric: I don't know how 10 players can be satisfied with conditions like that. I could be wrong.

The combination of these two quotes is exactly what I wrestled with a number of years ago. In this case, we're talking about what seems to be a solidly Gamist group of the dungeon-y subset, but the principle applies to any brand or mode of role-playing that doesn't fit one's own personal preference.

And the insight is: "I don't get it" is a perfectly valid personal assessment. Meaning, I look at the group in question, and bluntly, I'd rather watch daytime TV than role-play with them, and I hate daytime TV. I mean, I'd rather talk to telemarketers. Yeesh! Not only is "it" (and remember, fill in the "it" as you see fit) not what I want to do, it's hard for me to imagine why anyone, anyone would do it ...

And that's the issue. All of the previous paragraph is a personal assessment, but properly applied, it admits to a personal limitation of preference on the observer's part - not to a disability, deviance, or lack of vision on the parts of people who are being observed. They like X - OK, they just do, and all the lack-of-comprehension in the world on my part isn't going to invalidate X.

(In case you're interested, I tend to have this gut reaction when watching people play high-Sim D&D, especially second edition. My reaction is one part bafflement, one part awe, and one part horror, which again, are my problems, not theirs.)

Here's the good news: over time, especially once the GNS-etc model got itself generally settled in my head, I've discovered that my preferences have broadened. The first sign was enjoying Gamist play, of certain kinds (the high-random, whacked kind, mainly, with no story-goals involved), when previously I'd been a contemptuous foe of any hint of competition among role-players. Ten years ago, I would have agreed with every vituperative word in the current text of Arrowflight about that.

Right now, I'm piecing together a summary/essay of modern Simulationist RPGs, in order to isolate and discuss factors that help them work. It'll probably be a prompt for discussion to continue to aid my understanding, rather than a final statement of any kind. But I hope it indicates a continuing growth of comprehension on my part of other modes of play that I don't especially enjoy - moving from "I don't get it, you morons," to "I don't get, because I'm the moron," finally to, "I do get it, and these are some of the factors that really make it happen, and knock yourselves out, my friends."

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