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Author Topic: The Pool: 3rd Play Session Comments  (Read 2320 times)
Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« on: February 04, 2003, 11:16:21 AM »

Previous threads...
      The Pool: 1st Play Session Comments
      The Pool: 2nd Play Session Comments

Ran my 3rd session with The Pool. No rules changes from 2nd session.

Comments...

Players were MOVing and MODing more than last session which is good.  and they seemed a lot more confident about exercising narrative control.

The downside for me was that their MODs were usually introducing minor complications rather than major ones. Maybe it's ego talking but I feel that I would have make more effective use of their MODs and I think the development of certain events suffered as a result.

Although I was careful to pick players who were OK with the narrativist spirit of the Pool there was one incident when the expectations of one of the players caused an issue.

The group had been trying to solicit the aid of a Hillman tribe who they had learned were at odds with the goals of the Witch King. The information they had was false having been supplied to them by a high ranking member of the Rhudaurian militia who was an agent of the Witch King. The knowledge of their betrayal came too late and the group found themselves confronted by hostile tribesmen well aware of the bounty that they would receive for the groups capture. Surrounded and outnumbered at least 3 to 1, a major battle scene ensued.

One roll from everyone at the start. Two of the players got 1's and succeeded, 2 failed. The narrative of the battle probably ran for 20 minutes real time.

When narrating the battle the two players that succeeded made MOVs, held their own, and dispatched their immediate foes. One of the players that failed made a MOD and put up a stalwart fight. Not being a seasoned fighter she was quickly outnumbered and rendered unconscious.

The other player that failed was the one that had a problem. He was playing a reasonably skilled fighter (a Gondorian deserter with a past he is trying to flee). Previous rolls had seen his pool zero out. He rolled 5 dice for his trait and failed. No 1's but some 6's.

I guided the event as he fought with 3 of the Hillmen. A seasoned warrior I figured he would take at least one of them out, possibly two, but eventually he would be wounded. I guided the event. He took down one of the more inexperienced Hillmen relatively easily but the other two took the opportunity to outmaeuver him. He took a spear wound to the shoulder from one of them and gave a wound back in return. The remaining Hillman spotted an opening and landed a telling blow to his side that left the players character conscious but incapacitated and out of the fight.

Things ended up with the two characters that were still standing surrendering, the group was captured.

Right after the narrative the player who had been outmaneuvered and incapacitated voiced his concern that a Gondorian warrior as skilled as he was would never have been taken down so easily.

I pointed out that he had indeed managed to incapacitate 2 of his foes before he was taken down but even so he was very peeved at the outcome. He didn't feel that the battle had been realistic enough. By realism it was apparent that he was referring to D&D 'RPG realism' where possibly he would have bested his 3 lesser foes, taking a few hits along the way before eventually winning out. Argghhh!!!

The simple answer I gave him was that "this isn't D&D". I explained that if he had ideed made his roll then he could have taken a MOV and guided the narrative so that he did beat the 3 Hillmen. That would indeed be plausible outcome. Just as plausible as him beating 2 of them but not the 3rd, which was my call on the situation.

It was a really crappy conversation to be honest. Pointless and very annoying particularly when I had been at pains to point out that the game wasn't about rule-play or even about winning and losing individual battles. I wrapped the session up shortly afterwards.

The final session is next week. I'll be able to get a overall reaction from the players on how the entire game went.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2003, 01:10:47 PM »

Hmm. This may, perhaps call for Fang's Sin Non Qua thingie. That is, perhaps the player should be allowed to designate certain things that are just always true for his character. Like "Never gets defeated in combat except by truely exceptional foes". If such had been in effect, then your response to the missed roll could have been something like: "You fight killing several, and it looks like you will carry the day. Suddenly, you feel a pain in your chest that reminds you of your family's weakness - a bad heart. Aorgon has a heart attack and falls to the ground unable to finish the combat." Or whatever.

See, the player woudn't have been satisfied unless you described him as being overcome by a mountain of foes. Hey that woulda worked, too, "Aorgon slays hillman after hillman. It would seem that he's about to take the day when yet another wave of screaming foes comes over the crest. Overcome by the massive numbers of enemies, he goes down screaming."

That all said, without the Sin Non Qua previously defined, you couldn't have known that this would upset the player. Your description would have satisfied me. Taking on three at once and living is pretty good.

Anyway, the problem may not be the result at all, however, but the method that achieved it. The player may just have a Gamist or Sim preference. He may want to know that the rules work on some in-game physics instead of the complete metagame that The Pool represents. As such, a player like this isn't going to be satisfies with "It's not D&D". He want's D&D (or something other than what The Pool can provide). Previous satisfaction does not mean that the player likes this mode of play. He could have simply been assuming that the character's pool of effectiveness simulated his ability to fight (which it does not), and was satisfied when he succeeded, as it simulated the character correctly.

Have another conversation (perhaps by mail), and describe again what The Pool does represent, as opposed to what it's not. Then ask the player if that's interesting to them. If not, then it's best to just have the player not play. Even if it's the last game of the series.

Mike
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James V. West
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2003, 01:32:56 PM »

Well spoken, Mike!

I hadn't read Fang's "Sin Non Qua" thingie. Is it part of Scattershot? I'm so damn far behind on my games!!

It's not a bad idea, though.

I also find it difficult sometimes to explain to people that the dice rolling has nothing at all to do with what the character is actually doing. Nothing at all. A failed roll in combat doesn't mean you don't hit, it means things don't go the way you planned. If you're using MoDs, weave that into the story. Make something go wrong and make it interesting. It's a storytelling game.

Can't wait to hear about the final session, Cassidy! Thanks again for posting this stuff.
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2003, 02:19:30 PM »

Thanks for the reply Mike.

I will talk to the player, I have to say though that up until this particular point he had entered into the narrative spirit of things as had the other players.

Normally "the system" would have ensured that the outcome, good or bad, was dependent on an objective set of defined rules to moderate things like combat.

The Pool doesn't have that.

What I have really tried to articulate to the players is that The Pool is all about establishing a level of trust and understanding between everyone. In the absense of an objective set of rules to moderate stuff like combat all you have are trust and understanding.

Trust, insofar as whoever is guiding the narrative, be it the GM or a player, does so with the aim of advancing the story in ways that are exciting and dramatic and which hopefully everyone will appreciate and enjoy.

Understanding, insofar as actually doing the above is the primary goal of the game.

You are creating a story and everyone needs to be reading from the same page.

To be fair I don't think that I stressed this point enough to the players.
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Trevis Martin
Member

Posts: 499


« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2003, 06:12:15 PM »

In Theatrix your skills and so forth have nothing to do with your actual success but they do come into play when judging the extent of the success or failure.  For someone who is highly skilled vs his obstacle, failure is always due more to bad luck than skill, some uncontrollable external event.  Success when highly skilled is attributable to the skill of the user.  The reverse is true of those who are not very skilled vs their obstacle. Success is due to luck and failure due to the skill level.  

Obviously the pool does not have skill levels per se, and I don't think it needs them, but it sounds to me like the character is objecting on the basis of skill of his character.  In short, as James said, things didn't go the way he planned.  I like the Sie qui non Idea as well...

You're right...it does take a lot of trust.


Sounds like a great game though.

Cheers


Trevis
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2003, 12:48:47 AM »

One of the best techniques I like to use with the Pool is that when there is a failed roll, I use it as an excuse to throw in a Bang or a subplot.  

Instead of simply losing a fight to nameless minions, a (unplanned until this point) NPC warrior steps up and fights our hero to a stand still, managing to knock him off his feet, draw a cut across his cheek, and smirk with arrogance before his allies manage to chase him off....

Of course, its still a good idea to establish what manner of "reality" is in play, as Mike says.  I've found the less Simmy a game system is, the more important it is to establish the limits of plausibility or Genre Expectations(as Fang would put it).  Does a character's success to win a large battle mean:

•Fighting, holding position and contributing to the battle in a significant manner?
•Being a hero, literally undertaking those make or break tactics and actions?
•Being a mythic hero, fighting an army by oneself, for days on end, wading through opponents unleashing arrows as rays of the sun(ala Arjuna of the Mahabharata)?
•Godlike power, swinging a sword and having black acidic tornados fly out that shoot out 10,000 spears at a time, slaying the army in moments(ala the Chinese Heavenly Kings)?

The best method I've seen for establishing this sort of thing amongst a group is to pull out examples, either from movies or books so that everyone can get on the same page quickly.  This is the strength of games with licenses to movies such as Star Wars, in that one can simply look at the movies to establish the limits of plausibility(although the new movies greatly differ from the original trio in that aspect...)

Conversely, what does failure of a roll mean?  In battle, is it death, injury, being routed, captured, driven off, or what?  I've found that one of the best things to do is establish a "pre-roll" sort of build up to establish the tension of the conflict and to let the player know what is at stake.  The players declare intent, and then you play a little bit of the action, leading up to the point where the conflict is about to be determined, give out GM dice based on the players actions, then the dice hit the table.  Until the dice hit the table, the players have the option to change tactics, bail out, or do whatever.  If we were talking about doing the big battle scene out of the Two Towers, everything would be buildup until the first wall falls(failed roll).

Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2003, 10:40:14 AM »

Good points, Chris. I'd assume that the group's referent was the LotR itself, as they were playing in Middle Earth in that timeframe (was it 1600s, or the War of the Ring timeframe?). Anyhow, that's a pretty solid set of assumptions to pull from. The question then is why the player thought that downing two hillmen before being smacked down by the third was not sufficient. I suspect that the GM and the Player had different expectations as to the level of ability that the characters represented worldwise. Power levels in Middle Earth vary tremendously (especially when you consider the earlier ages).

That is, if it were Boromir, then, yes, I'd agree that three was too few. But he's a Captain of Gondor, son of the Steward, and general all-around ass kicker. There are supposed to be few like him (one gets the feeling that even Faramir trails significantly in combat ability). This is not to say that the Gondorian warrior in question coudn't have been that kickass. The question is, did the Player and GM agree on this before hand? Or was it the GMs assumption that the character was more "normal" (and therefore in conflict with the player's opinion)?

Anyway, that's just one possible problem. It could still be that the player was annoyed by the fact that the system didn't Sim the result in this case (the character being relatively ineffective with his pool at zero). He did make a claim to this extent, in which case it was simple GNS icompatibility. Again, the fact that he got in the "spirit" of the game doesn't mean that he didn't see the rules as still Simulationist. MOVs and MODs aren't inherently Narrativist by themselves.

Mike
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2003, 12:32:18 PM »

Hi Mike,

The short introductory game I'm running is set in Rhudaur, T.A. 1408, in the months preceeding the Witch King's 2nd invasion of Arnor.

I did brief the players that their characters are not the stuff of heroes or legend in the LotR sense. They are essentially just ordinary individuals living their lives (rather seedy ones) in a time of great upheaval and change.

I think the player took issue with the fact that this key conflict was decided by what he saw as GM fiat and 'one bad roll' with his character being on the receiving end.

He'd been fortunate in the couple of sessions before to succeed on his dice rolls at key moments in the story. Success is a great thing but I think he was unprepared for the consequences of failure.

When failure did occur I think the Sim side of him came to the fore. While he accepted that getting beaten by the Hillmen could happen he was perturbed by the fact that it all came down to what he saw as being one bad roll with the GM deciding his fate.

That's what can happen in The Pool though.

Right up until the last bit of narrative the player was well into the battle and apparently enjoying every minute of it. It was only when the remaining Hillman struck a final telling blow that he realised he wasn't going to win and he bought his ticket to Simville.

In fairness The Pool is a fairly radical departure from our staple diet of Sim heavy roleplay and it was always at the back of my mind that this could happen.

In a way I'm glad it did. Setting the players expectations of a game is one thing but it's only through actual play that you get to hit things head on. At the end of the day if it's not what he wants to play then I want to know now rather than later when I try and run something more substantial.
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2003, 01:28:09 PM »

Quote
When failure did occur I think the Sim side of him came to the fore. While he accepted that getting beaten by the Hillmen could happen he was perturbed by the fact that it all came down to what he saw as being one bad roll with the GM deciding his fate.


And I can understand, the Gamist in me wants as much control over strategy, determining my fate, etc, as possible, hence the reason if you give a significant amount of buildup time, you can forewarn players about the consequences and the difficulty of the situation.  If dice are hitting the table, you're saying either as a GM or a Player, that "This scene counts, it's important!" in a movie sense.  

So you might as well build it up including playing out some combat for the player before the dice hit the table.  So I would go into play out the fight scene, making it a tough or desperate battle, and when it came to the character reaching the make it or break it moment(3rd opponent, leader of the tribe, whatever), then the dice hit the table.

I basically consider the dice to be the point when you know where the scene is going.  Once Boromir caught the arrows, you knew he was done for.  So the build up is sort of a combo pre-roll scene, where players are informed as to the difficulty/consequences to the scene, allowed to make tactical/cinematically appropriate actions("Throw me!") or bail out before it gets too nasty("Don't go through the black gate!").  

Chris
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Cassidy
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2003, 03:00:45 PM »

I love minatures. I use them all the time, usually someone elses because I just don't have the patience nor the skill to paint them. Scenery too. Setting up a "us against the hordes" battle with 15 or so swarthy looking Hillmen surrounding the group of 4 PCs built up the tension in exactly the way I wanted it to.

First there were 5. A bit of discussion, nothing to get edgy about, everythng is cool. A few more Hillmen emerge from the brush. Things start getting a little more tense. The discussion takes a bad turn, and they realise that they have been betrayed. A few more Hillmen emege from cover. Scene is set for battle. Swords are drawn, minatures positioned, brief tactics stated, the Hillmen start to close in, then away you go.

I used a FitM take on Pool conflicts. Statements of intent i.e. "I don't want to die", "I'm going for their leader.", "I'm protecting Gillian.". Roll of the dice. Cue lots of two-way narrative, players moving figures around, me moving the Hillmen, utter mayhem. Love it.

Quote from: Bankuei
I basically consider the dice to be the point when you know where the scene is going.


For me it's the exact opposite. When I don't know where the scene is going or how it's going to pan out then thats when I ask for a roll of the dice. The dice provide a vague idea of the outcome and the ensuing narrative makes it real.

I really didn't care one way or the other how the battle concluded. Either way it would have created more story opportunities.
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2003, 03:34:09 PM »

Quote
Quote
Bankuei wrote:
I basically consider the dice to be the point when you know where the scene is going.

For me it's the exact opposite. When I don't know where the scene is going or how it's going to pan out then thats when I ask for a roll of the dice. The dice provide a vague idea of the outcome and the ensuing narrative makes it real.


Oops, let me clarify that.  What I meant was that you don't know what's going to happen, but the dice represent the turning point at which then, you  find out what's going to happen from there.  For example, Urak-Hai hop over the hill...fight, fight, fight, dice hit the table, Boromir catches arrows...etc.

Chris
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