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Author Topic: The Pool: First Play Session Comments  (Read 2121 times)
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« on: January 21, 2003, 10:35:42 AM »

Ran my first Pool session on Monday.

Nothing too heavy. I plan it to run 4, maybe 5, sessions tops.

Setting: Middle Earth.

Location: Dunedain Kingdom of Rhudaur, Spring 1408 TA.

Background: The Kingdom of Rhudaur is in it's death throes. The Witch King of Angmar is poised to seize the realm. Law and order is crumbling, the King's power is on the wane, allies are dwindling, the situation is bordering on desperation.

The Players (4): A small mercenary band who are in the employ of a disgraced Dunedain nobleman who has bound himself to the service of the Angmar.

Initial Task: Convince and coerce some of the lesser (and more power hungry) Rhudean Lords into switching their alliegence to Angmar.

For setup I supplied players with a brief background on the setting, and a premise of "what actually IS the greater good?". I let the players choose which side they wanted to ally themselves with, (i.e. Rhudaur/Angmar) and come up with a suitable rationale. They sided with Amgmar (bad guys) and chose to be a band of opportunistic mercenaries willing to sell their swords to the highest bidder. I suggested that they found themselves currently in the service of an exiled nobleman returning to Rhudaur to reclaim his birthright. They seemed ok with that, simple enough hook. I didn't need to overdose on setting information since they are familiar with Middle Earth from MERP games I have run.

Character creation went smoothly. The players came up with bunch of thoroughly disreputable individuals and an inventive set of traits. They did quibble about the point costs for initial trait bonuses though, claiming that they were too high. I think I have to agree with them. No-one took a +3, 2 players took +2's, average spend was about 8 points. To add colour I had players add half a dozen bonusless traits.

It took just under an hour to do the character writeups, explain the use of the dice pool in play, what MOVs were about, discuss background stuff, etc. I spent most time explaining MOVs. Dubious looks and furrowed brows were in evidence all around. After that we just dived into the game.

How did it go then?

Well, definetly not as I expected. I was concerned that players would over exercise their MOVs and the game would derail, or become an incoherent mish-mash of half-baked plot twists and ideas, a case of 'too many cooks spoiling the broth' so to speak. As it happens I couldn't have been more wrong.

Before and during the session I reminded the players that MOVs could be used to facilitate directorial control of the story and that the role was not limited to influencing the game solely through their characters. In play it very quickly became apparent that the players were reticent about using MOVs for that purpose though.

They liked the idea of using MOVs to guide the specific narrative of conflicts and/or events. They did that. They do it anyway. As I detailed in prior posts the players in games I run I like the players to have a limited amount of control over narrative. They used their MOVs to guide the narrative in the way that I would normally do. That worked well.

No-one ever made a Monolgue. Any narrative that took place when resolving a conflict/event was always a multi-player narrative between the player, myself, and on occasion one or more of the other players.

The narrative flowed. If anything the use of the word Monolgue is a misnomer.

MOVs allowed the player to guide the narrative but they showed little interest or inclination in exercising directorial control over the story.

After the game I asked the players why they didn't use their MOVs to control more story stuff. From their answers it was clear that they like "being" part of the story but the prospect of explicitly "telling" or "deciding" the course of the story beyond the scope allowed them by their characters just wasn't something they felt inclined to do. They honestly did not want to use of their MOVs in that way.

I made a point of keeping track of how dice were rolled during the game.

In the 2 hour session the dice were rolled 14 times. Of those 14, 5 were successes (4 became MOVs) and 9 were failures, Dice were gambled 10 times, 6 of those 10 were successes the other 4 were failures. Players only gambled low with 2-3 dice being the common gamble and 5 being the highest (that happened once and was a failure by the way). No-one by the way ended up thrashing at the bottom of the Pool. At the end of the session the lowest dice pool was 5 dice.

All in all not much dice rolling, relatively small gambles and consequently few MOV opportunities. Thats pretty consistent with my expectations to be honest. I expect to see bigger gambles next session.

Question about GM dice. I handed out 1-3 GM dice as per the rules and I find myself why? Why am I handing out dice to the players on every roll? What is the reasoning behind using GM dice at all? To make it easier for the players to succeed? To make it more likely that they will fail? I just don't get GM dice.

Although I made a conscious and deliberate effort to make the players fully aware of what a MOV could be used for they chose seemed happy to limit their MOVs and the impact they had on the story largely to the actions of their characters in the context of the event/conflict at hand.

Twice in the initial game I handed control of notable NPCs to the control of players. This is something I had deliberately planned to do and I had prepared small cards with a 50 word writeup and some notable traits for that purpose. That worked well. The players concerned commented afterwards that they liked being able to influence the story by roleplaying NPCs. It provided a character driven opportunity for the players to effect the story.

Yes, the players could have exercised that level of control of a NPC through taking a MOV. However, I think the fact that I explicitly said to them, "Here, I want you to play so and so" was like a green light to them essentially saying, "Look, I'm giving you this character to play, make something interesting happen with him.". They took the hint and indeed the story benefitted as did the enjoyment of the players.

It was a good session all round with positive feedback from the players and things are poised at a suitably dramatic moment so that next session starts with a bang.

The Pool doesn't play as I expected although actually playing it has certainly given me a better appreciation of the game that James wrote.

Kudos to James for putting together a game thats got me excited enough to actually want to play it.
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James V. West
Member

Posts: 567


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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2003, 07:30:03 PM »

Cassidy, wow what a great post!

First, it's interesting that you're using Middle Earth with The Pool. I never thought of doing that. I usually like to run something very loose--it seems to be easier for MoVs to flow freely in a setting that isn't so cheseled in stone.

Quote

Character creation went smoothly. The players came up with bunch of thoroughly disreputable individuals and an inventive set of traits. They did quibble about the point costs for initial trait bonuses though, claiming that they were too high. I think I have to agree with them. No-one took a +3, 2 players took +2's, average spend was about 8 points. To add colour I had players add half a dozen bonusless traits.


I'll tell you why the costs are so high. I wanted the easiest, most intuitive design I could come up with (in an hour's time). I didn't want a lot of adding, subtracting, and certainly no dividing. I wanted a system that was totally independant of any kind of matrix or other chart. I also wanted to keep all the values down in the low number range (+1, +2, but no +5s or higher).

Yeah, Trait Bonuses are very expensive.  

Quote

After the game I asked the players why they didn't use their MOVs to control more story stuff. From their answers it was clear that they like "being" part of the story but the prospect of explicitly "telling" or "deciding" the course of the story beyond the scope allowed them by their characters just wasn't something they felt inclined to do. They honestly did not want to use of their MOVs in that way.


Sounds like your players share the same playing style as Florian's. They dont' like to be in the driver's seat.

As Chris pointed out here, MoVs can be kept to the actions of your character--which is what it seems like your players are doing.

Quote

No-one ever made a Monolgue. Any narrative that took place when resolving a conflict/event was always a multi-player narrative between the player, myself, and on occasion one or more of the other players.

The narrative flowed. If anything the use of the word Monolgue is a misnomer.


Well, I called it a "Monologue of Victory" because if you're giving one it's all you. You can get input from the GM or other players (something that might not be conveyed in the rules as-written), but by default it is your monologue from start to finish.

Quote

In the 2 hour session the dice were rolled 14 times. Of those 14, 5 were successes (4 became MOVs) and 9 were failures, Dice were gambled 10 times, 6 of those 10 were successes the other 4 were failures. Players only gambled low with 2-3 dice being the common gamble and 5 being the highest (that happened once and was a failure by the way). No-one by the way ended up thrashing at the bottom of the Pool. At the end of the session the lowest dice pool was 5 dice.


Excellent. Hell, I never even kept track of them that closely. This falls pretty much in line with all the projections and other play results. Gambling low means more failures (but not necessarily doomed Pools), gambling high means more successes (though none garanteed, as you clearly point out).

Quote

Question about GM dice. I handed out 1-3 GM dice as per the rules and I find myself why? Why am I handing out dice to the players on every roll? What is the reasoning behind using GM dice at all? To make it easier for the players to succeed? To make it more likely that they will fail? I just don't get GM dice.


GM dice have a couple of purposes. First, they allow the GM to sort of help out, or sort of not help out depending on how he or she feels about an impending roll of the dice. True, the 1-3 dice don't make much of an impact on a throw that already has 9 gambled dice, but they do affect a roll of fewer dice. Which is another of their uses: when a player's Pool is destroyed. The GM dice combined with a +2 Trait can give you 5 dice to throw when you have nothing to gamble.

And that's another argument for rolling more often. Frankly, I always feel like there aren't enough die rolls in my sessions of The Pool. Next time I play (maybe before I'm eligible for a senior discount) I plan to have a lot more dice clattering about.

I know that narrativist-leaning players have often complained about "role-playing" vs. "roll-playing", but in The Pool you want a lot of dice noise. The thing that makes the game tick is the quest for MoVs and you can't get MoVs without throwing a lot of dice.

So I suggest right now to anyone who is playing or wants to play the game--be proactive about requesting or suggesting die rolls. You can sit and play a whole session with The Pool and never touch the dice (I did a session with one roll--man that sucked--and it was all my fault!). If it's been 7 minutes since dice were cast, make something happen. The characters are entering the hall of King Uppsy and one of the players says "Do we see Magdaline Mullharer in the hall?"....hand him 3 GM dice and say "Let's find out.".

Quote

It was a good session all round with positive feedback from the players and things are poised at a suitably dramatic moment so that next session starts with a bang.

The Pool doesn't play as I expected although actually playing it has certainly given me a better appreciation of the game that James wrote.


Excellent. And I certainly appreciate the comments! Pleast post when you play again (same goes for anyone who plays)!
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Florian Edlbauer
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2003, 01:27:37 AM »

Quote from: James V. West
Sounds like your players share the same playing style as Florian's. They dont' like to be in the driver's seat.

As Chris pointed out here, MoVs can be kept to the actions of your character--which is what it seems like your players are doing.

Interesting that this would come up in your game too, Cassidy. I enjoyed your post a lot (and I think I learned a thing or two).

Thanks also to Chris and James for feedback. Of course you're right. Players can still stick to their characters. I probably gave them the feeling that they should take over more GM stuff.

I guess I simply took the rules example too literally, where Damart invents that moving book. Also, Ron Edwards' review made me think that a game of The Pool would be much more free-flowing than usual. Next time I'll do better.
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Ron Edwards
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Posts: 16490


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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2003, 07:10:28 AM »

Hi there,

In terms of player contributing to "what's going on" in the scenario, The Pool is what you make of it. I like to let that be driven straight out of player preferences.

For the original review, I was playing with guys who were hard-core GMs in their own rights and who were used to taking-over play when playing with hesitant GMs. The power of The Pool to take these behaviors and put them at the service of everyone's enjoyment rather than initiating a power-struggled delighted all of us.

In later play, and most especially with The Questing Beast, I found that a lot of players really liked using the MoVs to Color their character's action and pretty much just protagonize the character that way, without adding much to the scenario or NPC behaviors. That works really well too.

Best,
Ron
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