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Author Topic: About time for another Woe...  (Read 12938 times)
Eric J.
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Posts: 396


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« on: January 26, 2003, 02:07:55 PM »

I've been RPing with my group for a while, and made few Forge posts because of several reasons.

1. I get similar responses each time.

2. My players get mad (one or two of them, whether they read my posts or not).

3. The effect comes to the same thing.

That being said, I can begin my post with a sort of recap on what we've done recently.

Charly GMed a D&D oneshot. Cody has started a new Mechwarrior game.  I've tried 8-bit theater session, and relised that the players aren't to a point where they (can?) play a freeform game and enjoy it.  I started a Star Wars D20 campaign.  That is where it hit me.  It hit me very hard, and it hurt very much.

My players enjoy dissfunctional play more than functional play.  Now, the immediate response would be, "That doesn't work Eric.  The definition of function is to be 'Capable of performing; operative'.  It is of greatest likelleyhood that your 'functional play' isn't that."  Well, yes and no.  I will go backwards.  Here's how SW started...

We went over to Jesse's house.  My players were Anthony, Charly, Avery and Jesse.  I decided to go a "sim./gamist stance" and told each person to create their ideal character for the class that they decided to choose.  "Background isn't important.  However, description is." My idea was to protaginize the characters and create a play style that was similar to what I used to run in the older days of Star Wars, when I was still learning to gamemaster.

This was a HUGE mistake.  I got, once again, characters without personality or other descrioption.  I'm sure that my players will respond with objection, but I will disagree.  It took 3 and a half hours to create characters, and by that time it was 9:30.  I started a little bit and decided to try an experiment.  I would shoot for disfunctional play, gming like an idiot.  Jesse was a human-scout.  I decided to put him in an unemployment line since he was complaining without rest about how little money he had started out with (500c out of a 3000c maximum).  The disfunctional element included making the situations extremelley easy and making stupid jokes (that I didn't find funny) at every chance. The players seemed to really enjoy it.  It was downhill from there.  It wasn't 'bad' but it did suffer from my players' conistant groaning that 'we didn't really get anywhere.  Avery was entirelley passive in his encounter refusing to do anything.  I had a hard time after that, but saved the situation by pulling the rest of the session out of Cowboy Beebop, which may prove to be a good or bad thing.  

Anyway(I know that it is a little late for one of these)- Is my theory plausible, or a scapegoat justification for my inability to gamemaster?  These are just some of my questions that I've been asking myself.  Any questions you could ask me would be appreciated.
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Aragorn
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Posts: 15


« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2003, 05:16:09 PM »

Eric the time to create the characters is not a fair thing to say. Let me simply remind you of one, well "small" matter, WE ONLY HAVE ONE BOOK TO MAKE THE CHARACTERS WITH! I really don't want to lay the blame on anyone, but if we had to lay it on someone, lay it on Charlie. Let me remind you yet again that Charlie had the book for the majority of the time because he was always doing something else at the same time, its a delay factor. Shit happens eric, you can't just lay the blame on the people that are playing in your RPG's, you can't just think of something you want us to do and expect us to do it. No one thinks alike, we can't read your mind and you can't read ours, we are going to do something your not going to expect, thats what is so much fun about RPG's in my opinion.

Now for my other, umm shall i say "complaint?" With my character I tried what i could think to do, but everytime i thought of something you said i couldn't do that. My transport is being surrounded by 3 fighters, i can't hack into their computers because when i try to do something that is possible, you say i can't. Eric with a computer use of +12 and disable device of +9, i can do a lot of things that normally you couldn't do, did you perhaps forget that i was a Slicer??? o and don't forget about my 16 intellegence. And when the 2 guards came on my ship, of course im not going to do anything, they have 2 blasters, and what do i have? Gee let my think 4 knives! Oh i can kill one, ONE. Then there is a blast followed by another blast and gues who just died?? ME!
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"If Avery saw a girl on fire he wouldn't come shouting, 'That girl is on fire,' but would instead coming shouting, 'That hot chic is on fire,' and he wouldn't even see the irony in it." -Eric and Anthony
Le Joueur
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2003, 06:17:44 PM »

Hey Eric?

This might be a little forward, but I don't think that your players have a "dissfunctional" [sic] style of play.  It sounds like their preferred manner of play works just fine for them.  What sounds dysfunctional is that it sound achingly 'not fun' for you as a gamemaster.  Then the dysfunction comes from who is playing with whom, not how anyone plays.

When it comes right down to it, 'functional play' is simple; it's fun.  That's all there is to it.  If one person - such as the gamemaster - isn't enjoying themselves, well...it doesn't happen to be anyone's fault.  It just isn't.  It's like trying to play chess at a checkers convention.  Neither chess nor checkers is dysfunctional; nor are the people who play them, but pit a checkers player against a chess player and I bet somebody won't be having fun.

All knee-jerk reactions aside, can we skip 'what was played' and 'who had the books' type of issues?  Did anyone have fun?  Did anyone not?  Was the problem because the people who had fun approached and practiced play in a fashion that did nothing to inspire fun in those who didn't have any?  I think that's the central issue by the sound of it.

There doesn't seem to be anything inherently 'wrong' with how you gamemaster.  It just doesn't suit.  Let me delve into what you've given us on the face of it.  You "decided to go a 'sim./gamist stance.'"  (First of all, they're called modes if anything, stance is different, and second, one rarely makes the conscious decision to 'go a certain way;' the modes are about what already happened in terms of looking for each player's preference.)  "Description is important" and "to protagonize the characters" speaks very heavily of a gamemastering approach concerned with having the characters drive the story.

"The players seemed to really enjoy it" and "without personality or other description" sounds like players who go for the 'rollercoaster ride' type of play; the game doesn't force them to make any difficult decisions ("extremelley easy" [sic]) like one expects from a protagonist and it is just a wild ride (the reason they groan "we didn't really get anywhere" is because they expect you to take them for a ride).

This is a common recipe for dysfunction; the problem is it is neither side's fault.  You have a gamemaster who wants the players to 'drive' and you have players who expect the gamemaster to 'drive.'  Is it any surprise that 'the car don't go nowhere;' everybody is in the back seat.  The problem isn't your gamemastering, it just sounds like you don't gamemaster their kind of game very happily.  (The big hint for me was the lack of "personality or other description;" that's a hallmark for people who basically play themselves as a form of escape.  Think of it as one step better than watching television; it gives the feeling that 'you are there' that television cannot.)

I see two basic problems; solve either and you may be able to make it work.  The first is 'what is fun for one, isn't for the other;' this works both ways.  You said the players can't "play freeform and enjoy it" and you don't seem happy 'operating the rollercoaster.'  Finding a compromise is one solution.  The other problem is probably going to be something like 'I can't find anyone else to game with.'  This is a common problem as gaming isn't as popular as we'd like.  This kind of conflict will either lead to always having one side 'not enjoying it' or a separation; sometimes there are people who get such different things out of gaming that you simply can't have fun gaming with them.  So quit, you're going to be miserable either way; nobody is 'making you game.'

The most important thing to take away from my advice is that there is no one 'right way' to game.  You can't be gaming dysfunctionally if you enjoy it.  It wasn't dysfunctional for them, just you; now that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong either, just that you are doing it wrong for them.  Accept that it really is possible for you both to have your own ways of having fun gaming (neither being separately dysfunctional) that just don't mix.  That's all.

Fang Langford

p. s. Sorry I hit "submit" half way through and then cross-posted with the first return salvo.

Eric, if you don't want to talk about issues involved with the specifics, then don't.  Try to 'get the last word in' is how your thread "degrade."  You don't like his response to the time issue = ignore it.  Furthermore, drop the "I want a player to improve" attitude; they aren't there to entertain you; gaming isn't only your way.  This is a group, not a dictatorship; if you don't like the way somebody plays and it gets a 'pass' from the group then it's your standards that are out of whack.  Just because your the gamemaster doesn't mean that you get to tell everyone what to do (especially if you avoid the 'rollercoaster operator' mode).
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Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!
Eric J.
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2003, 06:41:17 PM »

I adress the first paragraph.  Let's look at what it's focused on:

Quote
This was a HUGE mistake. I got, once again, characters without personality or other descrioption. I'm sure that my players will respond with objection, but I will disagree. It took 3 and a half hours to create characters, and by that time it was 9:30.


This is blaming no one.  Every one took about equal time, except Anthony, due to his experience with the sytem.  My purpose in stating this was to give an example on how the system hurt play and showing that one of my expectations was not met (Starting by 8:30).  

Anyway I'll now adress your second paragraph which is a response from:

Quote
Avery was entirelley passive in his encounter refusing to do anything.


Now this may be a little subjective, but you really didn't try.  For example, you shut down your ship on demand, and then let them take you into custody.  This is an example of being passive, because you didn't object to others' demands.  I also would say that you didn't do anything, because you didn't really talk much during the encounter or try any creative actions and then follow up on them (hiding on the corner of the ceiling and refusing to suprise the guards).

I really don't want this thread to degrade like all of the others.  Furthermore, I think that you missed the point entirelley.  If I want a player to improve their actions or attitude I'll talk with them directly.  I am adressing the theory that my group enjoys disfunctional play more than functional.  Beyond that, you can talk to me directly.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2003, 07:08:16 PM »

Well, Eric, I'm going to be honest. You are not going to like it.

I will say that it sounds like you are a fairly inexperienced GM, regardless of how long you have been GMing. This is not a crime in itself. However, you seem to have picked up some Forge terms and are using them to point your finger at your players, as in "Here's what those chuckleheads are doing wrong." Unfortunately, you seem to have a less-than-perfect if not dead wrong impression of what the terms mean. Your players don't prefer "dysfunctional" play. To be frank, I have no idea what they prefer your presentation is trying to skew things so much.

I don't know what to tell you at this point. I don't think there any bit of advice that can be given to help you with these woes at this point because after several such threads, similar "problems" keep coming up. This tells me that behavior modification on both you and your friends' part just isn't happening. At this point, and I think we were at this point three threads ago, it's like "What do you want us to do about it?"

To answer your question, I think you'r just a little inexperienced, like I had said, but this is not a problem if you learn from it, chalk it up to experience and move on. Instead, it seems to me like you're more interested in laying blame. Most of your post here was laying the blame on your players, but with the final question, you abruptly shift focus and ask if the balme lies on yourself. I would say stop looking to fix the blame but fix the problem instead and get back to having fun roleplaying.

I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here.
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Eric J.
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2003, 08:26:23 PM »

This is going to be a hard post.  I seemed to have cross posted with Le Joueur.

The first thing that I would like to say is that the last thing that I would like to do is to place blame on any party, including myself.  I made my posts hoping to be past that, and make this one with that same thought.

First a response to Fang's: Rollercoaster seems to be a much better term than dysfunctional for what I'm describing.  However, I used the term dysfunctional because it seemed to best describe the light, style that they wanted (encouraging out of game commentry that has no function; comic situations; etc.)  To that matter of GNS.  I said stance, which means something different when regarding Ron's essay.  I should have been more aware of what stance meant here at the forge.  What I meant would be better described as mode, which you picked up on.

You've given me much to think about. BTW-I'm looking forward to your post, Anthony.
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Roy
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Posts: 153


« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2003, 11:04:49 PM »

I've got to agree with both Fang and Jack on this, Eric.

Quote from: Eric J.

I've been RPing with my group for a while, and made few Forge posts because of several reasons.

1. I get similar responses each time. ....


Could it be that the same problems keep coming up over and over again and we've been trying our best to help you?  Why should we continue to waste our time by giving advice and guidance that is ignored?

I offered to GM an online game for you and your group so we could try to confront the issues within your group, but you never took me up on it.  You won't find many people willing to make an offer like that, Eric.  

You come here and ask for help, but when it's offered you don't take it.  Why?  I think the answer to this question is at the core of your problems.  

As my wife would say, "it's time to put up or shut up."  The gauntlet has been thrown.  Will you take up the challenge?

Roy
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Balbinus
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Posts: 290


« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2003, 03:27:43 AM »

Eric,

Did you see my comments on the 8-bit thread?

Anyway, on the basis of what you describe here and on other threads I don't think your players are remotely disfunctional, I think they like getting together and having some fun at a gaming session.  Is that so bad?

I read with great interest Cody's thread describing his mechwarrior game.  My impression was that it consisted of some big-ass fights linked with some humorous character interplay during character downtime.  So, the PCs kick ass then everyone RPs the PCs hanging out and chewing the fat until that gets dull, then they kick some ass again.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding it.  My point anyway is that it sounds fine.  It sounds to be honest like most action movies and I can see why people would find it fun.  What's not to like?

Moving back to your post, here's the problem.  On the posts of yours I read you often seem to be stopping the players from doing stuff.  Let them do stuff and then run with it.  Let Aragorn hack the fighters' computers and while there he succeeds but maybe someone else notices the hacking later.  Don't say no, say yes but, then add in an interesting complication.

Let go of control a bit more.  Let the PCs do stuff, let their characters be important.  I'm not remotely saying that you can't gm incidentally, but I think you may be overGMing - taking too much control of what happens in play.  Forget all the jargon you find here, run a rip roaring Star Wars game and remember at all times that the PCs are the heroes and the whole point is for them to do cool stuff.  That's what heroes do.  If Luke Skywalker had had a hacker companion could that hacker have got into the fighters' computers?  Of course they could, so should the PC - unless you have something really cool waiting to happen if they fail.

Then, while they're doing the cool stuff you can slip in more complex stuff and it will work fine as it will be part of a larger game (though I'd avoid moral issues in a SW game personally, they don't come up in the movies much).
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AKA max
Balbinus
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Posts: 290


« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2003, 03:36:12 AM »

How did Charly's oneshot go?  I don't mean who did what and who played what, I mean what was the style of play and was it a success on the night?

Now, sometimes it sucks on the night because people are tired or whatever and so it goes, so if that's the case there's probably not much to be learned.  But if Charly did a freewheeling dungeonbash and everyone loved it that's interesting.  If Charly did a tale of adventurers fighting through insuperable odds and people got bored by that concept that's interesting too.

So, lets have some details of Charly's game and how that went.  That might make it clearer what your group are into.

Oh, if Charly's reading this I'd be interested on his thoughts on what he did right and what wrong as well.

Final point, I notice Eric you mention running SW like when you were learning to GM.  I've been GMing for over 20 years and I still regularly come across stuff which helps me do it better, or different.  You don't stop learning and sometimes all that learning is no damn use if inspiration just isn't there on the night.  So it goes sometimes.  Maybe this just wasn't a successful night.  It is possible to overanalyse these things.

[Edit:  Apologies if anything sounds brusque by the way.  I'm quite tired and it may affect my tone more than I realise.  If anything sounds aggressive feel free to call me on it.]
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AKA max
Balbinus
Member

Posts: 290


« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2003, 03:50:54 AM »

Found it!

Here's a link to an IMO excellent article about running Star Wars games and what makes them Star Wars:

http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html

I recommend every word and intend to apply it next time I run anything similar.
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AKA max
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2003, 05:00:25 AM »

Quote from: Eric J.
This is going to be a hard post.  I seemed to have cross posted with Le Joueur.

The first thing that I would like to say is that the last thing that I would like to do is to place blame on any party, including myself.  I made my posts hoping to be past that, and make this one with that same thought.


Well, let's put it this way:  if (for whatever reason) you're not enjoying your gaming at the moment, then somebody is going to have to change.  Now, yes, your players can't be "blamed" for playing the way they enjoy and you can't be "blamed" for having a particular opinion of their style.  But don't assume that the fact there is no blame means that there is no responsibility to change.

And making a statement like "the problem is, my players enjoy dysfunctional play" sounds awfully like blame to me.

Quote from: Eric J.

First a response to Fang's: Rollercoaster seems to be a much better term than dysfunctional for what I'm describing.  However, I used the term dysfunctional because it seemed to best describe the light, style that they wanted (encouraging out of game commentry that has no function; comic situations; etc.)  


Dysfunctional means "opposing its own intended function".  The intended function of a game is for folks to enjoy themselves - and those folks get to choose for themselves the kind of stuff they enjoy.  If your players enjoyed the game, it clearly wasn't dysfunctional from their point of view, and so it's wrong to say they enjoy dysfunctional play.  

I agree a lot with what some others are saying here, because I've been through similar things as well.  I'm not a particularly experienced GM (I don't know if you are or not), and I also was intriuged by GNS and other properties discussed on the Forge, and started taking them really seriously and things like that.  That was until one day I woke up and realised that all I'd actually achieved was a) creating a huge number of evermore sophisticated excuses for not playing at all or for not enjoying the game, b) that gaming must be really intense and serious, and c) convinced myself that gaming done 'right' was some sort of revolutionary, transcendental creative experience, and that therefore I 1) absolutely had to experience it, 2) wasn't 'worthy' of joining a new group who were doing it because I "lacked the experience and ability".  (In doing what?  Uhhh, I don't know, whatever stuff you do when you're gaming well, right?  Uh-oh, if I don't know what it is I obviously can't do it yet, darn..)

You sound like you're having a similar thing with a) and b).  I find it very, very hard to put into words the insight I had which snapped me out of this perception, but it was something to do with seeing some play logs and some RL actual play with a different group, and also reading Elfs and octaNe and knowing who wrote them (which should certainly disabuse anyone of the notion that comic situations are dysfunctional or that the Forge's discussions imply that gaming must be a heavy and serious matter).  The Forge's techniques should IMHO be applied where they will make games lighter, easier and more fun than they were before.  They should not be used to make games heavier, harder and more serious.  And they should likewise not be used to try and 'sweeten the pill' of making play more serious in a group that doesn't enjoy that style.
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2003, 05:23:53 AM »

I'm going to take a slightly different approach.  Not because I don't believe the above is spot on, I think it is (and that I can't offer anything further in that line), but rather I think a more specific example is in order.

I've obviously never gamed with you Eric, but your posts seem to all relate to a certain style of GMing that your players aren't interested in.

To take examples from the above:  a player's ship was surrounded by the enemy, the player wished to hack the enemy ships as a way of escape. You said no.  The player's ship was boarded and men with guns ordered the players surrender, being out gunned the player complied and you label this as passive and do nothing.

Let me tell you what I see as having happened in this game.  You as GM had a certain collection of "cool scenes" in your head that you wanted to see played out.  You as GM thought it would be fun and entertaining to have a situation where the player was captured by enemys boarding his ship and then had to fast talk or fight his way out (ala Han Solo on the Death Star).  Your player found an alternative way to deal with the situation, one that would not have lead to your preconcieved "cool scene" so you you forbade it.  You then ramroded the situation to set up the scene you wanted and were disappointed that the player didn't jump through the hoops you set for them.

This is not good.  This is a mistake.   Unless you are playing with players who enjoy having you play their characters for them this is not going to work.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2003, 09:21:20 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Let me tell you what I see as having happened in this game.  You as GM had a certain collection of "cool scenes" in your head that you wanted to see played out.  You as GM thought it would be fun and entertaining to have a situation where the player was captured by enemys boarding his ship and then had to fast talk or fight his way out (ala Han Solo on the Death Star).  Your player found an alternative way to deal with the situation, one that would not have lead to your preconcieved "cool scene" so you you forbade it.  You then ramroded the situation to set up the scene you wanted and were disappointed that the player didn't jump through the hoops you set for them.

This is not good.  This is a mistake.   Unless you are playing with players who enjoy having you play their characters for them this is not going to work.

I'm quoting this bit because it bears repeating.
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stingray20166
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Posts: 39


« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2003, 10:50:24 AM »

OK, I agree this situation could have been handled better.  But I read it as more of an honest mistake.  It's not easy when your players come up with something you haven't thought of.  And as a beginning GM there were times when I did something similar -- not because I was trying purposefully to ramrod the action but because I was scared of diving off into something I hadn't prepared for.  

Once I learned to relax and love the bomb I was fine. :)

I think you need to trust yourself that you can handle whatever your players throw at you.  Once you handle it a few times you'll find that you enjoy what they come up with.  Don't forget that you are only telling half the story (or less!) -- the players are doing the other half.

Regarding the character creation -- it sounds like your night started off badly and that might have colored the rest of the actual playing.  If you want the game to start at 8:30 be draconian -- "I'm picking up the character sheets at 8:30" or be Hitchcockian -- 8:30 chimes: "Three imperial guards burst into the room with weapons drawn.  What do you do?  Fill in your character sheets later, there's a guy with a gun pointed at you -- what are you going to do?"

By the way, Balbinus, thanks for the posting of http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html
Great aritcle.
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stingray20166
Member

Posts: 39


« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2003, 11:11:58 AM »

OK, I agree this situation could have been handled better.  But I read it as more of an honest mistake.  It's not easy when your players come up with something you haven't thought of.  And as a beginning GM there were times when I did something similar -- not because I was trying purposefully to ramrod the action but because I was scared of diving off into something I hadn't prepared for.  

Once I learned to relax and love the bomb I was fine. :)

I think you need to trust yourself that you can handle whatever your players throw at you.  Once you handle it a few times you'll find that you enjoy what they come up with.  Don't forget that you are only telling half the story (or less!) -- the players are doing the other half.

Regarding the character creation -- it sounds like your night started off badly and that might have colored the rest of the actual playing.  If you want the game to start at 8:30 be draconian -- "I'm picking up the character sheets at 8:30" or be Hitchcockian -- 8:30 chimes: "Three imperial guards burst into the room with weapons drawn.  What do you do?  Fill in your character sheets later, there's a guy with a gun pointed at you -- what are you going to do?"

By the way, Balbinus, thanks for the posting of http://ptgptb.org/0022/theforce.html
Great aritcle.
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