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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 82 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [The Pool] First playtest impressions  (Read 2360 times)
Florian Edlbauer
Member

Posts: 7


« on: January 20, 2003, 02:44:08 AM »

Hi all, I'm new here. I discovered The Pool last week and ran my first game yesterday. This is a short report of how it went. If such things bore you, all I can say is sorry.

My players were very very careful exploring the rules. Too much so. They never spent many dice on a single roll. So most rolls were made using 4 to 6 dice in all, and most of those were lost (i.e. no "1"s came up).

My players were also very suspicious of "having to do more work" in this system than before. As I found out in after-play discussion, they actually think they'll have to do more GM work (in the form of monologues) and get less entertainment (provided by the GM) - or at least less surprises.

Character generation, however, went very well. They'd never played Hero Wars or anything like it, so they'd never just written up a couple of paragraphs, but enjoyed it nevertheless. One played a commander in the town militia. Both were a bit surprised that I let them take such an important position.

Both players said they'd love to play again and venture more dice in future rolls. They remain suspicious of having to do monologues.

(As I think about it again, I think we experienced two monologues in all. Both gave new story elements and contributed, so the problem they have might be purely theoretical.)

A little background on my group: We've played lots of roll-under systems, especially Chaosium's BRP stuff (CoC, RQ, also Pendragon). None of us has ever played D&D. I've been playing RPGs for almost 20 years, my players about 13. We usually play long, historical campaigns with 1 session/month. I have three regulars and a couple of casual players. I played The Pool with two of the regulars yesterday.

Befroe I ask too many questions on how you all handle similar problems, I think I'm going to read deeper into the archives of this forum. Still, any tips are greatly appeciated.
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James V. West
Member

Posts: 567


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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2003, 02:01:26 PM »

Hey Florian!

I'm really glad you got to play the game--and so soon.

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My players were very very careful exploring the rules. Too much so. They never spent many dice on a single roll. So most rolls were made using 4 to 6 dice in all, and most of those were lost (i.e. no "1"s came up).


This is very typical for a first-time group unless the GM or some of the players have experience with The Pool or other Narrative-heavy games. I always expect this when someone plays the first time.

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My players were also very suspicious of "having to do more work" in this system than before. As I found out in after-play discussion, they actually think they'll have to do more GM work (in the form of monologues) and get less entertainment (provided by the GM) - or at least less surprises.


Well, I've never heard it put quite like that, but I can see where a player's expectations of what a game is supposed to be like could be challenged by The Pool. No, this isn't a passive play experience. You really have to get in there and be involved or it just won't be any fun.

I'd simply explain to the players that this game isn't meant to be played the same way you'd play something like Call of Cthulu. In CoC, I would expect the GM to have all sorts of secrets that he doesn't tell me. I'd want that mystery and the feeling that I'm just not in-the-know about Things That Should Not Be and so forth. But if I'm playing The Pool, I expect to be a part of the creation of the story and not just a character exploring what's already been laid out. Maybe if they understood that up front you would get a different response.

Of course, that isn't to say that you can't have CoC-style experiences with The Pool. What I mean is, the GM can and should still have his little secrets and plans and surprises--he just has to be willing and able to change or set them aside when a MoV mucks with them.

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Character generation, however, went very well.


It usuall does. People like having the freedom to create from scratch (though some don't like the word limit).

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Both players said they'd love to play again and venture more dice in future rolls. They remain suspicious of having to do monologues.


The fact that they want to play again makes me feel really good. That's the best response I could ever ask for.

As far as monologues go, I think it might be that they don't understand what they are able to do with them. If they consider them a chore, there's something wrong. Having the power to make something happen not only with your character, but beyond it usually gets role-players kind of excited.

So, I'd recommend 1) reading through some other posts (which you're already doing), 2) making sure your players understand what is different about The Pool compared to other games they've played and 3) tell them to gamble more, because if you don't push The Pool it's no fun.
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Florian Edlbauer
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2003, 01:07:03 AM »

Thanks for your feedback, James, most of which is spot-on, I feel.

I do want to stress one point, however. My players were aware that they weren't playing CoC, but a game that would enable them to influence the story more heavily. Also, you should perhaps be aware that they're quite good at improvising and making stuff up. In CoC, I sometimes hand out unimportant characters for them to play as NPCs, and they love to do that. They do like to be active.

So, what they said when we discussed the game of The Pool at the end of our session was that they preferred to explore an unknown world, without being able to influence the world. I guess that to a degree they just like the simulation aspect of roleplaying as well as narrative.

And most of all, I believe it's because they both have stage experience - that they like to limit themselves to their player characters alone. An example? When they met a character, they wanted them to act independently of themselves. They wanted to play just the one person, without any influence on plot and outside world. And when they examined a dead body in the game, they didn't want to make up the contents of the pockets, they wanted me to tell them and then discuss them in detail afterwards.

I hope I've expressed myself more clearly this time.

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But if I'm playing The Pool, I expect to be a part of the creation of the story and not just a character exploring what's already been laid out.

Yeah, maybe that's just what they didn't like so much. We'll find out. (I did some preparation for another session yesterday... ;)
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2003, 01:01:46 PM »

I think one of the assets of the Pool that gets overlooked is that although you can go crazy with an MOV("I search the body and find...he's a CIA agent!"), no where in the rules does it require that level of narration.

MOV's basically say that what is occuring is important to the player.  A lot of players of traditional games where the GM is in narrative power can choose to use MOV's only for fights or "looking cool", choosing to keep their narration only on their character.  

Although the potential to narrate some crazy stuff exists, by no means is it necessary to play the game.

Chris
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James V. West
Member

Posts: 567


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2003, 06:00:51 PM »

Florian: Yeah, I get what you're saying now. I totally understand where your players are coming from.

Chris: Right on. I forgot to mention that part myself. Seems like Florian's players might feel better about the game if they didn't feel like they had to do crazy GM-ish stuff when narrating. Thanks for reminding us of this.
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2003, 02:35:50 PM »

Yeah, I think the big thing that scares both players and GMs alike is the out and out revolutionary way the Pool just explicitly hands over power to the players without any brakes or safeguards.  Most games along the traditional lines(or Heartbreaker lines) never consider just handing the power over.  Players are so used to being treated with the guarded eye and rules galore that the Pool just gives it to ya and says, "Here, be adults with this and have fun!".

Both players and GMs tend to fear that the possibility of power abuse must indicate the necessity of power abuse...although we've been playing with massive GM power for a long time, and it hasn't shown to be a requirement.

Chris
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Florian Edlbauer
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2003, 01:20:06 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Yeah, I think the big thing that scares both players and GMs alike is the out and out revolutionary way the Pool just explicitly hands over power to the players without any brakes or safeguards.  [...] "Here, be adults with this and have fun!".

Sorry, but that seems pretty (and unnecessarily) arrogant as well as untrue to me. No one here is scared or childish.

Don't want to stress the point too much, as I've told you a lot already about the feelings in my group, but unity of character is in fact a big one not just with roleplayers. Look at TV, the theatre, books etc. Think about how you feel about yourself.

Also, the sense of wonder in exploring a new world (passively, i.e. pre-defined by novelist or GM) as a major driving force in a lot of media should be evident to readers of LotR & other Fantasy books, for example.

I can understand some players not wanting to give that up just for more narrative control. Adult players, even.
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2003, 11:53:15 AM »

I'm sorry Florian, I wasn't referring to you or your group.  You seem to have made it clear about what both sides wanted and how you acheived it.  I was referring to more reactionary folks who tend to fall into that response.

One need only check out the various GM's advice sections/articles, forums regarding play balance and problem players,  etc., to see how much the  fear of player power abuse is a major issue within the hobby, even if it isn't a universal trend.

I was only pointing out that unlike many mainstream games, the Pool doesn't go into a lot of "vetoing" the players narrative power, or major cautions on the potential of abuse.  It is simply assumed that everyone knows what they want and is willing to go for it.

Chris
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James V. West
Member

Posts: 567


WWW
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2003, 05:18:19 PM »

I had a lot of those fears and uncertainties when I wrote the game. The second draft I ever wrote was rife with new rules and junk that was meant to reign everyone in so it doesn't get out of hand. Bad move.

Ultimately, how you play any game is a matter of preference. Some games are written to lean more in one direction or the other (cue: GNS, Exploration, Stance, etc.). The Pool is written to acheive two primary goals:

1) For fast play with rules that can be learned in about 10 minutes or less.

2) To create a genuine feeling of risk by giving players powerful rewards and stinging losses.

Obviously there is a wide, open range of interpretation possible.
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