*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 25, 2019, 09:42:15 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Fading Suns - getting players to drive the plot  (Read 2115 times)
jeffd
Member

Posts: 58


« on: September 29, 2003, 01:31:03 PM »

Periodically I solicit feedback from my players about the game, other players, my GMing, etc.  One bit of feedback that was pretty consistent was that the players wanted to drive the plot more themselves, rather than having NPCs and whatnot drive it (fair enough).  Fast forward to this past Saturday's game session.

Player Character's:  
Jieza Li-Halan, a Baronet of House Li-Halan who is also a psychic
Jaxom, a freeman who also happens to be a psychic and her lover
Captain Bada-Gur, a Vorox Commando assigned as Jieza's bodyguard

NPC's:  
Brother William of Ravenna, a priest serving as Jieza's confessor and advisor (the previous confessor character was killed because her player had to leave the game due to scheduling)
Alex Trevalyn, a Charioteer pilot (I had to remove the player from the game due to constantly missing sessions)

Full disclosure:  Jieza's player is my live-in girlfriend.

The characters in this session had been dispatched to the planet of Iver, a lost world, in search of several priceless artifacts.  To prepare for the players (and in the spirit of not driving them with NPC's) I wrote up a five page intelligence dossier that consisted of everything their patron knew about the world and where the artifacts might be found.  

The characters arrived on planet and were greeted by a delegation from the planet's rulers, House Chauki.  They were taken to a palace where they were wined and dined for an evening.  The next day they toured the main city, where it became obvious that they were being kept away from the citizens (at one point they stopped to dine in a cafe, the guards ushured all of the patrons out of it).  The characters asked to be permitted to visit a plot of land to the east and were told they could in several days - "once the appropriate paperwork is completed".  It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that House Chauki was stalling.  

The problem I have is at this point the players gave up - Jieza's player rather snarkily declared they would return to the Palace and "wait for something to happen."  The game seemed to be headed toward a big failure so during a smoke break I took Bada-Gur's player aside and gave him a few hints to pass on.  The game got moving again, but still - the player characters (especially Jieza, who as the noble is expected to really make all the decisions even if she's just agreeing with someone else's suggestion) seemed largely paralyzed and indecisive.  The best reason they gave for this was being unwilling to offend their hosts (the intelligence dossier specifically mentioned the likelihood of having to piss people off in order to take these artifacts; anyone who knows their value would not part with them willingly).  

Does anyone have any idea how to encourage the players to continue to shoulder more and more of the burden of driving this adventure?  How can I get them to not just sit around waiting for a deus ex machina to drop these artifacts into their hands?

JD
Logged
AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2003, 01:45:14 PM »

This may not be quite what you are looking for, but it's the closest I can come to.

The five page dossier you provided them with was a 'Map' to the adventure.  The players could choose to not follow the map (and get in trouble with the patron who is sending them on this mission) or they can follow the map, sticking to the elements and actions you are giving them.

On the other hand, if one of them is at a market, and a dying man thrusts an old data-cube or whatever in their hands, promptly expiring, well, then the decision to investigate the jump route on the data-cube is the players.  Follow the clue (not map), or not.

Most players will jump at this sort of clue.

If they decide to investigate, maybe they can find some historical notes that indicate there are some valuable artifacts on the planet.  Perhaps inquiries indicate they are the kind of artifacts their Patron would like to possess.  Now they can choose to make their Patron aware or not.  They can also choose to undertake a mission to the world, independent of whether or not they are seeking the artifacts.

They may decide to investigate the jump route without learning about the artifacts, in which case maybe they learn about them for the first time once they are already on the planet.  The citizenry is being hidden from them, but they don't know why.  They may or may not have an explicit mission to find the artifacts, but they may be interested in following the clue.  The clue of the data-cube leads them to the lost world, the clue of the ruler's behavior leads them to whatever that's about.

Basically setting up a situation where the players must go to a planet, where they must get some artifacts doesn't allow the players to decide what they are doing.  It allows them to decide HOW they are going to do something, but not WHAT they are going to do.

Not offending their hosts is a WHAT, and they haven't had much opportunity to make WHAT-type decisions, it doesn't sound to me.  When given one, they make a choice.  And that choice doesn't work with what you intended, so now things have gotten frustrating for both you and them.

When this sort of thing happens in my games, I usually try to sit back, and start saying "What do you do now?"  Don't have the NPCs do anything except react to what the players do.  If the players don't do anything, the NPCs don't either.

This doesn't always work, and frequently whatever the players do isn't quite what you had planned, but it can sometimes get them thinking proactively.

Hope this helps!
Logged

Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2003, 02:32:40 PM »

Caveat:  I know nothing about the Fading Suns world, setting, or game.

The thing is, I don't see any personal involvement in the artifact plot you have set up here.  Because the characters don't really care about what they're doing here (does any one of them deeply want to find artifacts?  Doesn't sound like it.) they have no real reason not to "sit back and wait for something to happen."

Dormant is the natural state of the PC.  Your job, as a GM, is to make them nondormant.

My advice is: Start a new campaign.  Get each of the players to write down two or three things that the character cares about (a lover, an ideal, a drive for some sort of power.)  Tell them that these aren't set in stone, and that they can change them any time (and let them.)  Then, put these things in jeopardy / give them an opportunity to advance them.  Sit around and watch the sparks fly.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  My description above is directly ripped off of Riddle of Steel, a fine game in its own right.
Logged

jeffd
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2003, 02:33:41 PM »

I should be more specific with the background.  The players had long ago decided to pursue these artifacts - since (in a manner somewhat similar to what you described) they discovered their existance... if you're familiar with Fading Suns - the artifacts in question are three of the five lost voting scepters.  

The players pursued these scepters on the planet Pandemonium, where they came to the attention of a noble who has a stake in this.  He offered them the rough location of the scepters (this lost world) as well as what information he had (the intel dossier, which had some clues as to where on this world the scepters might be found) and material resources.  They were already involved in this quest when they journeyed to the lost world, where they are to locate the scepters.  The other noble's reward in this is one of the three scepters (a small trifle, hmm?  You'll still have two).  

When they chose not to offend their hosts I pretty much did what you suggested.  Players:  We're going to wait until something happens.  GM:  Let me know how long you're going to wait.

Like I said eventually they did start to take some action - specifically they came up with a plan for Jaxom to escape.  Jieza went to the University after hours, taking with her 3 of the 6 guards.  Jaxom and Bada-Gur went for a walk in the gardends (with the other three guards).  Bada-Gur had deliberately ate things that would make him sick - and in the gardens he got sick all over one of the guards.  During the confusion, Jaxom (who had acquired clothing similar in style to that worn by inhabitants of the city) shimmied over the wall and made his escape.  A juveneille plan, but frankly Vorox tend not to grow much past the mental age of sixteen so it was appropriate.  Also good for some laughs.  Without his guards Jaxom was able to socialize, learning some about the political unrest brewing on the planet as well as the fact that the nobles living to the east came sometime *after* the jumpgate was sealed, confirming that they indeed likely brought the scepters with them.

I guess my real concern is that I'm afraid of this sort of thing becoming a sort of pattern - players just not being able to drive things themselves.  It's no doubt partially my fault, in earlier sessions it was usually an NPC driving the plot and the players being along for the ride.  I'm trying to get away from that - and finding that it can be difficult.

JD
Logged
jeffd
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2003, 02:41:28 PM »

Quote from: Ben Lehman
Caveat:  I know nothing about the Fading Suns world, setting, or game.

The thing is, I don't see any personal involvement in the artifact plot you have set up here.  Because the characters don't really care about what they're doing here (does any one of them deeply want to find artifacts?  Doesn't sound like it.) they have no real reason not to "sit back and wait for something to happen."

Dormant is the natural state of the PC.  Your job, as a GM, is to make them nondormant.

My advice is: Start a new campaign.  Get each of the players to write down two or three things that the character cares about (a lover, an ideal, a drive for some sort of power.)  Tell them that these aren't set in stone, and that they can change them any time (and let them.)  Then, put these things in jeopardy / give them an opportunity to advance them.  Sit around and watch the sparks fly.

yrs--
--Ben

P.S.  My description above is directly ripped off of Riddle of Steel, a fine game in its own right.


Hey Ben,

Jieza, as the noble and pretty much the boss, is very driven toward these Scepters.  She's a psychic member of a House that's very religious, and the religion preaches the evil horror that is psychic powers.  She's been longing for a way to change the Known Worlds to make her kind more acceptable, which posessing three of the Voting Scepters would allow her to do.  Basically she'd have more political pull in terms of the election of the Emperor than any one noble house.  She's right now leaning toward giving them to the Emperor in exchange for a whole bunch of power with which to pursue her agenda.  My impression is that she (and her player) are both very interested in achieving the scepters.  Sorry I didn't make this clearer.

Jaxom is Jieza's lover.  He's right now mostly concerned for her welfare and safety, but a secondary issue between them is the simple fact that she's a noble and he's a commoner.  There's no real issues with her having him as a lover on the side, but eventually she's going to have to make a marriage.  He hasn't quite accepted that, and it's a source of brewing angst between them (I'm actually thinking throwing a noble suitor at Jieza... as a young woman she very much assumes that any suitor her father chooses for her would be a stodgy dork of an old man, I want to confuse her by throwing a young, charming, dynamic fellow at her).  

Bada-Gur is Jieza's bodyguard.  He was close to her older brother whom he fought under.  When Jieza was sent to Pandemonium (after her confessor was discovered to be a heretic, things were getting hot and her father sent her away lest her psychic powers be discovered) her brother arranged for the Vorox to be assigned as her personal bodyguard.  He's fiercely loyal to her - he sees her as a part of his familial unit.  He's also somewhat protective of her virtue, which leads to some interesting moments with Jaxom.

JD
Logged
Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2003, 02:46:35 PM »

Quote from: jeffd

When they chose not to offend their hosts I pretty much did what you suggested.  Players:  We're going to wait until something happens.  GM:  Let me know how long you're going to wait.

Like I said eventually they did start to take some action - specifically they came up with a plan for Jaxom to escape.  

I guess my real concern is that I'm afraid of this sort of thing becoming a sort of pattern - players just not being able to drive things themselves.  It's no doubt partially my fault, in earlier sessions it was usually an NPC driving the plot and the players being along for the ride.  I'm trying to get away from that - and finding that it can be difficult.


BL>  This sounds more like "change of style" pains than a recurring problem.  My suggestion is to talk to your players out of game, ask them if this sort of player driven action is what they wanted, and confirm.

yrs--
--Ben
Logged

jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2003, 03:36:12 PM »

Hello JD,

Here's your problem: You assumed that the players would continue to persue the artifacts regardless of the obstacles put before them.

I fall into this trap all the time.  A PC says at the end of a given session that they are going to do X.  I plan the next session around X.  PC encounters first conflict to achieving X and says, "You know, not worth it, let's go home."  Me: *blink*, *blink*, *blinkety*, *blink*, *blink*, *blink*.

In this case it's even worse because it's not just a matter of the PCs "giving up" but rather an important statement on the part of the character.  Jieza's player is saying that "not offending her hosts" is more valuable to her character than persuing the artifacts in some underhanded and bizantine manner.  That's a very valid character choice.  By doing that, the PC IS driving the plot.  Which leads me to....

Player driven plot does not mean inactive NPCs.  When I read your description the first question that came to mind is, WHY is House Chauki stalling?  What do they hope to gain?  If the PCs choose to wait then the NPCs that make up House Chauki should make their next move towards their goals.  Even if the NPCs in question don't want to give up the artifacts they certainly can't expect Jieza to just go away if they stall long enough.  They're probably going to do something to try and make her go away.  Fake the artifacts being stolen?  Try to negotiate?  Attempt to assassinate Jieza?

Here's a really important part: To truly let the PCs drive the plot you have to let go of the importance of the artifacts all together.  Don't expect Jieza to value them above all else all the time.  If House Chauki tries to negotiate to get Jieza to go away without the artifacts, the player has got to have the power to say, "okay."

A lot of times a GM can close off creative options subconciously by not wanting to "risk" certain outcomes.  I've often said things to a fellow GM, like, "Well, why not have this NPC offer X to the players," where X is some drastic alternative to what the GM considers important, only to have the GM responed, "Well, I COULD do that, but then what if the PCs say Yes?"

Side Note: Read Trollbabe.  Your artifacts sound an awful lot like The Stakes as described in that game.

Also you had this to work with:

"Jaxom is Jieza's lover. He's right now mostly concerned for her welfare and safety, but a secondary issue between them is the simple fact that she's a noble and he's a commoner. There's no real issues with her having him as a lover on the side, but eventually she's going to have to make a marriage. He hasn't quite accepted that, and it's a source of brewing angst between them (I'm actually thinking throwing a noble suitor at Jieza... as a young woman she very much assumes that any suitor her father chooses for her would be a stodgy dork of an old man, I want to confuse her by throwing a young, charming, dynamic fellow at her)."

If you were truly strapped for ideas with what to do regarding the artifacts when the player said, "We wait to see what happens."  Why not have what you just said above be what happens?  I do this all the time.  If the PCs back me into what I call a "story void" (a PC choice that seemingly brings the main action to a halt) then I switch focus from the main action to a sub-conflict for a while.  Works like a charm.

Hope this helps.

Jesse
Logged
jeffd
Member

Posts: 58


« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2003, 04:07:54 PM »

Regarding House Chauki:  honestly they have no idea about the scepters.  The scepters arrived on planet with some Alecto refugees some 500 years ago, they're an Alecto secret.  The Chauki are thwarting the players in an attempt to keep anyone from getting an idea of what the situation on Iver is really like.  House Chauki has realized that with their jumpgate open it's only a matter of time before Known Worlders are streaming in looking for a piece of Iver.  They want to hold things together as much as they can - therefor it's in their interest to keep Known Worlders from learning about the rather vast political unrest, police state, etc.  It's also in their interest to make sure that the Chauki are the only people Known Worlders are dealing with.  By monopolizing that relationship, they remain in power.  As a result, they're deliberately keeping the players from getting anywhere where they (Chauki) can't control the information the players get.  On Jaxom's trip out he learned a bit about the simmering unrest.

As I mentioned in another post - there are others who are seeking the scepters.... most notable amongst them is a powerful psychic who is now actually traveling with the group - having killed young Trevalyn and assumed his place (he's got psychic powers that let him appear as someone else).  His plan is to let the PC's get the scepters, get back to Pandemonium, then sneak off with them when no one is looking.  

Anyway, I honestly did what I did with the Chauki to force Jieza into a position of having to make some tough decisions...  And for what it's worth, they're getting made - my real worry (and now that I've talked this out I'm realizing that it may have been somewhat unfounded) is that this would be a continuing pattern; it was something I wanted to head off before it happened.

JD
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!