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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Kenway on March 20, 2002, 03:42:59 PM



Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Kenway on March 20, 2002, 03:42:59 PM
Hi.
  Do you think this is a valid subject to talk about?
  In particular, lessons to be learned could be summarized at the end.


Title: Re: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: xiombarg on March 20, 2002, 09:42:56 PM
Quote from: Kenway
Hi.
  Do you think this is a valid subject to talk about?
  In particular, lessons to be learned could be summarized at the end.

I think it's valid, but I'm not sure there's much to talk about. I mean, if a campaign is really bad, you usually figure out a way to bail early, right? So there isn't much to talk about.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ben Morgan on March 20, 2002, 11:11:21 PM
Quote
I think it's valid, but I'm not sure there's much to talk about. I mean, if a campaign is really bad, you usually figure out a way to bail early, right? So there isn't much to talk about.


On the contrary, I think there are a lot of people out there who are into gaming, and stick with a certain group or game system out of habit more than anything, even if it's not what they really want. For them, bailing is not an option, either because they don't want to stop gaming with their current group, or because it simply hasn't occurred to them. I was like that for a long time.

The worst campaign? That's a tough one, though. There have been a lot of campaigns that had both good and bad elements, both in big piles.

I was in a Cyberpunk game once that really went on way too long. I didn't have the vocab for it at the time, but the Ref was hard-core world-sim. He wanted to model "real life", or at least what he thought real life would be in 2020 after world economic collapse. The lethality level was high (No fudging of die rolls, dead was dead), the incidence of random events was high, a lot of stuff happened and then never got resolved (and it was like that because, well hey, sometimes things don't get resolved in real life, right?). Characters were likely to get killed going down to the corner for smokes. On top of that, the Ref was really against the concept of scene framing (what at the time we called "Hollywoodizing time"), for what reason, I never did understand.

We started with three players (of which I was one), and added people whenever friends happened to come over on game night and were interested in what we were doing. At the height of the campaign, there maybe eight players. The character turnover rate was high (several players left because of this), so by the time the campaign finally just fizzled, I was the only one left with my original character, and I had worked myself into such a position that I was lucky if I would get as much as fifteen minutes of screentime per six-hour session. The only way my character was able to survive as long as he did was because I'd deliberately -- though not consciously -- taken myself out of the action. Once, my character actually managed to convince a hit man that had been hired to eliminate him (guilt by association) that he was too pathetic to kill. Everyone else was on their third or fourth character, and the campaign had no real focus, and in the end it collapsed under its own weight.

Attempts to appeal to the Ref's sense of reason failed. He wasn't interested in telling a story, he was interested in maintaining [his conception of] realism. Characters were constantly deprotagonized. A friend of mine created a character deliberately loaded up on cyber, just so he could explore the process of degeneration into cyberpsychosis first-hand. Instead, he got his head blown off by a sniper rifle a session after bringing the character in (not even by C-SWAT or any similar organization).

My own character's concept was supposed to be centered around his attempt to drag himself back up out of the drug habit he'd sunk himself into, and try and get his life back together. Didn't happen. Instead, he got roped into secnario after crazy scenario, where some group wanted to go after another group and beat the crap out of them, usually outnumbered and outgunned. He lost a lot of friends, and in the end, came out terminally depressed. If the game had gone on even a single session longer than it did, I would have orchestrated his suicide (conflicting schedules and a newfound interest in professional wrestling on the part of my friends conspired against me on that one).

This is not to say that it was a complete disaster. There were, as I said, many excellent moments during the course of this campaign. Things that made us laugh, things that made us go "holy shit!", things that made our jaws drop and the sheer coolness, and at least one moment that brought us to tears.

The point is, I stuck with this one for months longer than I should have, because at the time, as far as I was concerned, it was the only game in town. Back then, I couldn't conceive of the possibility of gaming with anyone else other than my primary circle of friends.

If one were to look at it in GNS terms, this campaign was a nightmare. The Ref was world-sim, most of the players were char-sim, several of them were gamist. There was no social contract, no discussion out of game. You just sat down and played, what was it. And the game suffered because of it.


Title: My Palladium experience
Post by: Kenway on March 21, 2002, 08:36:34 AM
One day, we felt our typical AD&D adventures were getting boring (but that's another story), so we decided to let one of our players run a Palladium adventure for the first time.  There were many protests from some of our players, but a couple of us said to give him and the system a chance.
  So the GM spent about a week writing an adventure and drawing maps.

  The first day, we made our characters, which were pretty high level Palladium-wise.  Of course it took a long time since you had so many spells and skills and stuff.
  Anyway, it was evening by then and we started the adventure.  I don't remember exactly, but the town mayor asked us to go find some lost item somewhere.  Not a good start.
  We set off and were attacked by a "random encounter"- something like a bunch of orcs and wolves.
  In that first round of combat the problems became obvious.  Each participant had apparently a dozen attacks.  And everybody had to roll for parrying and then counterattacks.  I'm pretty sure we were following the rules properly.
  Anyway, the first combat *round* took about half an hour I think.  I said something like, "Geez, can't we just win, this is a random encounter!  Let's just go."  The GM said something like, "This won't take much longer."  So we kept on fighting.  The fight lasted several hours and I died due to bad rolling about halfway through.
  Anyway after that fight was all over we went home and never mentioned that player GMing or Palladium ever again.

  Lessons learned:  I thought the GM should have just *let* us win because it was just a freakin' random encounter!  Instead it took us the whole night.
  The GM should have playtested what a fight would be like at that high level instead of being surprised like the rest of us.
  After this sorry adventure I took it upon myself to do more than my share of DMing every other AD&D adventure we ran after that (and we welcomed AD&D with open arms again after that fiasco).  I made sure that random encounters, if needed at all, would only take 5 minutes tops to run!


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 21, 2002, 08:39:49 PM
Hello,

The worst experience for me, hands down, was a game that I ran during a summer visit to Chicago when I was living in Florida. A couple of my Champions buddies who'd played in that Best Game Ever that I'd run for years, a couple of other mutual friends, and I decided to play while I was in town. It was gonna be great, right? It was gonna be perfect, in fact, because we all knew the system, we'd played together mostly, the new people were friends and like comics for the same reasons, etc, etc.

It sucked. I had reached the "wanna make story" stage and so had most of the players. That in itself was terrible, because I as story-maker needed compliant/complicit players if it was to be my story - and they, now happily interested in taking a tad more interest in story-making than they'd used to, ran straight into my commitment to my intentions. I tried to do the more "retroactive" form of story-making and things became more and more disheveled-looking as a result.

One of the players, also, had a very selective memory of our original game in terms of how much fun it was to strategize in combat, and he bitterly resented any "editing" or "streamlining" of any rules or scene-changing that infringed on his strategic options.

We played several sessions, and the new people must have been horrified, as these three or four guys who'd boasted for years about their Best Game Ever were revealed to be utterly incapable of playing together.

What a terrible experience. We all "came to play," and we could not, not do it.

Best,
Ron


Title: CoC blues...
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 22, 2002, 12:00:04 AM
My worst experience hails from CoC.

I was playing a young disabled horror-novelist in a wheelchair (not very wise, but it just felt right for the campaign and indeed, the game). We were in an dark empty mansion atop a hill and it was storming outside (can't get any better than that, eh?).

Anyway, the others suddenly ran off, leaving me in the vestibule.

Now, I have to mention an important fact about this game. Two "lurkers" had joined the game because they were bored. They weren't part of the group and were just mucking about basically. They were playing an old woman and her husband.

But back to the story.

There I am, squeaking along in my wheelchair. I slowly and nervously roll into the diningroom and everything is covered in sheets. Suddenly, one of the lurkers announces that his character, the old woman, is sitting in one of the chairs, underneath the sheet, and jumping up to scare me.
It works and I fire a handgun I hold in my trembling hands. Result, woman dead, my character severely flipping out and her (lurker) husband comes down.

I think to myself "they're just here because they're bored, so it won't matter that much". It just made perfect sense to me. I played the guy as a nervous little runt and they left me all alone, with a gun in my hand (they even put it there in the first place - "Here, take this for protection").
Next thing I know, the husband pulls out a shotgun he found and plasters my novelist's brains all over the wheelchair. Exit character.

Arguably, this was something logical for him to do as well, but should the GM have interfered here? I think so. In essence, what was going to be a great character, one that had a lot of internal exploring to do ("how could I kill a human being?", "Is this real horror?" etc.), was shot to hell by someone who was just there because his M:tG game had fizzled.

Anyway, that was a long time ago and I probably over-reacted. I did cause it myself by firing at the woman...

Any thoughts? Was I right to be disappointed in the GM for allowing a lurker to blow away a character that could have been very engrossing to me and the others?

Fer (Crayne)


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 22, 2002, 08:23:17 AM
Ferry,

I'm not sure what the "right thing" for the GM to do could possibly have been. You have described a recipe for disaster, already there in play, no matter who shot whom or whatever else happened.

You killed another player-character without the player's consent. Your justification? "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later." What about her character? "Oh, she didn't really care about the game anyway." In other words, you are saying that she didn't matter and you did. Only this double standard permits you to think that the third player's action could possibly be criticized.

Player-characters killing one another can be a great aspect of play. In Call of Cthulhu, such acts are often a big part of the play session, as various craziness and delusions escalate and terrible reactions ensue. I've played enough of it to know how much fun it is (and am trying to remember, in our last CofC session, whether my character dispatched another with a knife or a garrote. One of them, anyway).

To be fun, consent for such acts must exist. Ideally, it should exist among the group before play even begins. Without any knowledge or understanding of that consent (ie, when it is not discussed at all), no one can provide any kind of solution to the situation. The GM is not magic; he cannot solve this one by "being the GM." The problem exists at the level of the social contract, which is pretty much the biggest, most inclusive "box" of role-playing.

Your disappointment in the GM completely astonishes me. Why would your investment in this character automatically be so important to him, that it justified overriding another player's action?

Best,
Ron


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 22, 2002, 09:02:20 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Your disappointment in the GM completely astonishes me. Why would your investment in this character automatically be so important to him, that it justified overriding another player's action?


Ron, I think I did not make it clear enough that I did blame myself for the situation and that I was disappointed at the time about the GM's "hands-off" approach to the situation.

I merely asked if I was wrong. You make it sound as if I am still furious about it...

What I still believe is that the GM should have taken the situation and thought about it for a moment. We had two characters dead and the player of one of them was not going to continue the campaign anyway.
He said this literally and this was not out of spite or bad feelings. I would have altered the outcome of that situation so that the character who was part of the campaign was critically wounded...not dead.

Quote

You killed another player-character without the player's consent. Your justification? "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later."


No. If you read my post you'll find that I did not kill his character because "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later."
I shot the character (and happened to kill her) because I felt it was a very natural thing to do when your a nervous wreck, in a wheelchair in a dark mansion and everybody seems to have forgotten you. I even seem to remember warning other players about giving the character a gun...

My statement that the character had a lot of potential had to do with the GM's decision not to have mercy on the novelist. Not with the killing of the other character.

But I fear this is something we can debate a long time, so perhaps it is best to just leave it be. It was along time ago and it just etched into my brain as one of the worst times I had roleplaying ever.

Fer


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ben Morgan on March 22, 2002, 10:15:45 AM
It seems to me that hiding under a sheet to scare another person, when they've been left all alone in a dark house at night (and the fact that there was even a need to leave him with a gun for protection) seems to be a supremely stupid thing to do, in character or out. Did no one discuss the ramifications of this action (ie: the possibility of getting shot) when the player annouced it, as in *before* it was resolved? I hate to sound insensitive or anything, but it sounds like the player took a course of action completely at random, and the character suffered the consequences. Just a thought.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 22, 2002, 10:29:25 AM
Hi Ferry,

With apologies, I would like to continue this discussion, briefly anyway. I understand, and I agree, that we are talking about a long-gone situation and that it has nothing to do with your feelings or perspective now. For discussion's sake, let's pretend we are talking about an entirely different person.

What interests me in your last post is that you are still talking about what the GM should have done in response to the events during play. The point of my post, which I should have emphasized more, concerned the understanding of play among everyone before it even began.

Let me know what you think about that. Or, if this is still not something you want to pursue, let me know, and I promise I really will shut up this time.

Best,
Ron


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 22, 2002, 10:54:08 AM
Quote from: Amazing Kreskin
It seems to me that hiding under a sheet to scare another person, when they've been left all alone in a dark house at night (and the fact that there was even a need to leave him with a gun for protection) seems to be a supremely stupid thing to do, in character or out. Did no one discuss the ramifications of this action (ie: the possibility of getting shot) when the player annouced it, as in *before* it was resolved? I hate to sound insensitive or anything, but it sounds like the player took a course of action completely at random, and the character suffered the consequences. Just a thought.


I warned everybody that my character with a gun would equal disaster at some point. I don't know if the other player took this as an incentive to hide under that sheet, but I see the possibility (since the player was behaving like a clown all night).

Anyway, I think it was pretty stupid too... :)

Fer


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 22, 2002, 10:59:05 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
The point of my post, which I should have emphasized more, concerned the understanding of play among everyone before it even began.


Okay, I did distill that from your post and considered pursuing that, but somehow I felt we could end up in a very "ymmv" situation.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Let me know what you think about that. Or, if this is still not something you want to pursue, let me know, and I promise I really will shut up this time.


Well, if I look at your point about the social contract, I'd have to say the fault lay there more than in the GM's actions (or perceived lack of).
I think the GM should have at least made sure everyone was in it for the same reasons. I'm very sure the two lurkers weren't in the game for the same reasons the other players or I were.

Fer


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 22, 2002, 11:04:43 AM
Hi Ferry,

And again, with the proviso that we are talking about totally different people ...

You wrote,
"I think the GM should have at least made sure everyone was in it for the same reasons. I'm very sure the two lurkers weren't in the game for the same reasons the other players or I were."

Shouldn't everyone have made sure that everyone was in it for the same (or compatible) reasons?

Best,
Ron


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 22, 2002, 11:29:18 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Shouldn't everyone have made sure that everyone was in it for the same (or compatible) reasons?


Probably, but keep in mind I was 17 at the time and everything tended to be very "traditional" (i.e. GM controls everything, the players yell when they want to respond).

In hindsight  agree with you, but of course that doesn't change a thing about the feeling. :)


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 23, 2002, 11:51:33 AM
Quote from: Ferry Bazelmans
Probably, but keep in mind I was 17 at the time and everything tended to be very "traditional" (i.e. GM controls everything, the players yell when they want to respond).


Well, there's your social contract. And the GM was right there doing exactly what he should. I won't be so diplomatic as Ron.

Actually, I like CoC this way. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, CoC is not for campaigns (though it might say it is). The odds are against you, and its more fun to croak anyhow. I love what happened in your story as an outsider. Lots of people dead due to stupidity. Bravo. Let's see more of it. It's the kind of thing I strive for each and every time I play (my last character died in a botched summoning of Shub-Nigurath after she went crazy due to reading the wrong tome. Most gruesome part of the game. Bwahahahaha!)

If you had wanted to modify CoC so that characters had a chance at developing a story, well, that's just classic Narrativist drift on your part. And since that wasn't discussed or in the contract, the GM was playing exactly as he should have. It was you who had improper expectations of the game as established. Your disapointment at the time was due to this improper expectation.

This is a classic case of exactly what GNS is supposed to cure.

Mike


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 24, 2002, 11:25:10 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes

If you had wanted to modify CoC so that characters had a chance at developing a story, well, that's just classic Narrativist drift on your part. And since that wasn't discussed or in the contract, the GM was playing exactly as he should have. It was you who had improper expectations of the game as established. Your disapointment at the time was due to this improper expectation.


You took my remark completely wrong. What I meant when I said it was a very traditional game was that there was no room for a player to give any input whatsoever, not even to complain about his character's death.

I was 17 and did not know any better, so I was there with exactly the same reasons as all the other players EXCEPT the two who'd just joined for a lark. We were all playing Cthulhu, they were playing Cthulhu Toon.
THAT is what I found unfair, not the fact that my character got snuffed in that campaign. I would have had no problems at the time if that character had gotten killed in some suitably Cthulhu-esque circumstances. Getting killed by the character of someone who wasn't playing because he was interested in playing, but because he was bored is what ticked me off.

This had nothing to do with GNS, it had to do with resenting the clowning about of those two "joke" players and the death resulting from it. I didn't even make it to the interesting ways to die.

Fer (Crayne)

PS I suspect this post will still not get across what I am trying to say, so perhaps we'd better just leave it here.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Valamir on March 25, 2002, 06:33:16 AM
I actually do understand exactly what you're trying to say Ferry.  Its not a question of narrativist drift or who did what to whose character...its a question of committment.

You and your regular players had comittment to the game, the two others did not.   The GM gave just as much weight to their decisions and choices as he did to his committed players, which IMHO is a huge mistake.  I'd occassionally GM for hanger-ons, but if they weren't planning on becoming regulars, I'd never let their decisions take priority.  Hell thats just good politics.  You don't piss off your core constituents just to cater to bandwagon jumpers.

Anyway.  Seems to me the first mistake was letting them in the game without being clear what their role was.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 25, 2002, 07:12:15 AM
Wow. My post actually DID convey what I mean. :)

Anyway, you're right, Valamir. This is exactly what bugged me.

Fer


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 25, 2002, 02:55:31 PM
I understood what you meant exactly. The problem I had was with your desire to have the "GM do something" about the situation. What should the GM have done? Fudge the roll? Just invalidate the particular player's statement of intent? Arbitratily rule that a particular effect occurred?

It seems to me that these actions were all outside the purview of the GMs understanding of the Social Contract as it exoisted. So he did what he felt he was supposed to. Had the social contract been amended in some way by the introduction of a clause that mentioned that "temporary players may have their characters actions modifiedby the GM" or somesuch (for example agreeing to play in a Narrativist fashion), then he would have been out of bounds. But as I hear it, this is not the case. You expected the GM to modify the social contract on his own and for (from your perspective) the good of the group. When his opinion was obviously that a strict interperetation was important. This does not seem to unreasonable to me.

Did you talk about it? Perhaps with an understanding of these issues he'd have changed his ruling. But without these concepts to discuss the idea, most GMS adhere firmly to the spirit of the rules. In CoC if a character dies, a character dies. Nowhere does it even suggest that the players should have anything like a second chance. I've played in tons of games of CoC where characters were killed by falls from ladders and the like (one player fumbled and blew himself up with dynamite in a non-combat situation). That's basic Simulationism (maybe even a bit gamist).

The urge of a player to have his character survive in a Simulationist game with a particular social contract that states that game mechanic cause and effect is prime seems to me to be a drift from that rules system and contract toward Narrativism. Not that that's bad of itself, but is a perfect example of disatisfaction of a player due to a GNS conflict. So I think I completely understand why you were unsatisfied with the result. You were a Narrativist (few are as Narrativist as you, Ferry) playing in a Sim game. No wonder.

Mike


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ferry Bazelmans on March 25, 2002, 11:33:40 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
I understood what you meant exactly. The problem I had was with your desire to have the "GM do something" about the situation. What should the GM have done? Fudge the roll? Just invalidate the particular player's statement of intent? Arbitratily rule that a particular effect occurred?


Okay, I get your point and it's a good one. I shouldn't want for the GM to do something afterwards, action should have been taken up front, because there was a problem with the social contract.

What I've been trying to get across thouh was that it was 8 years ago, in a time where there wasn't any awareness of the existence of such a thing, not in our group. I'd never heard of GNS, never seen this site, read Ron's essays or even thought about the possibility that there would be conflict in our views of "how to play". You just...played.

So there was no room for action to be taken up front. Which is where the traditional remark comes in again.

And for to clarify: I wished the GM would have corrected the player when he said he was going to hide underneath the sheets, not turn back my death. It was too late then.

This player was just a classic case of the goofball trying to dislodge a campaign by acting like a clown and I feel the GM should have called him on it, instead of allowing him to sit at the table and f**k things up for the rest (he actually caused another death, but that was a bit more related to the actual plot).

Quote
Did you talk about it?


About what? There was no awareness on anyone's part that there was a potential clash of styles or drifts, hence once again the traditional comment. We just put our name on a list and we had a group. We all played the same (in our eyes).

If I had known then what I know now, I would not have been in that group in the first place.

Quote
So I think I completely understand why you were unsatisfied with the result. You were a Narrativist (few are as Narrativist as you, Ferry) playing in a Sim game. No wonder.


?

Why do you distill that few are as narrativist as me? :)

The reason I never chime in on GNS debates is that I have no damn clue what you people are discussing. It all sounds mighty interesting, but it goes right over the top of my head.

So what makes me so narrativist? I'm really curious...

Fer (Crayne)


Title: Back on Topic...
Post by: wyrdlyng on March 26, 2002, 12:12:54 PM
My worst campaign/gaming experience was a World of Darkness campaign which completely turned me off of most White Wolf games.

Quick synopsis: it started as a Mage game with some were-cats living fighting the Technocracy in New Orleans and the surrounding bayou. Eventually, the story progressed, characters came and went, and the characters relocated. I don't recall exactly why but we ended up living in a cave network in the middle of Asia (I truly can't recall what led up to that).

By this point things were somewhat irritating in that no matter what the group did or tried to accomplish it was always (I mean ALWAYS) undone by external powers. The entire world setting itself was actively working to foil us. This was the first bad sign.

Secondly, some of the players had started forming their own clique and going off on their own in the middle of games and working towards their own private agenda. Had this been an in-character thing I owuld have been okay with it. Conflict within the group is good grist for stories. But it wasn't an in-character thing. It was the players doing it.

So, a rift grew and the group found itself split into three groups. Those in this secret clique, those who thought that this clique-thing was a bad idea for the game and those who didn't care either way. It grew worse and worse until the game reached a breaking point.

One of the characters was an old style mummy with some human servants. When we got together for our weekly game we were told that one of the human servants had been killed somehow inbetween game sessions. Most of us were confused as hell and we (the players) tried to figure out what was going on. Nothing had been mentioned at the end of the last game and now suddenly someone's NPC was dead before the game even started.

In game, we hesittantly used every resource we had and determined how the NPC was killed and traced it back to the other players (the secret clique). The game got really heated as players started yelling (with the mummy player needing to be restrained) trying to get answers as to what happened and why. The GM explained that after everyone else had left he and the small clique remained and continued playing with the outcome being that they killed this non-present player's follower.

Suffice to say the group (players) never met again and we never played with the GM  or those secret clique players again. The shame of it was that my wife was good friends with one of the players who joined that clique and they have never spoken since. We boxed up our White Wolf stuff and stopped gaming all together for several months.

To this day I still can't believe that the GM didn't think that letting those players do that wouldn't cause problems. He should've told them that this would be a bad idea and discuss the possible out-of-game ramifications.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Mike Holmes on March 26, 2002, 12:29:17 PM
Why do I say that you prefer Narrativism? Well, lets look at the evidence.

Exhibit 1: SOAP - despite your efforts to turn this into a Gamist game you just can't do it. You are completely unwiulling to compromise the central quality of the game which is it's commitment to telling a story (If silly soapy stories). You know I love that game. Without it I would not have been able to work on Universalis as I have. And Universalis is still not a tenth as devoted to story as SOAP is.

Exhibit 2: it bugs you when the GM doesn't change his mode of play out of Sim to satisfy your craving for Story by making Narrativist decisions. Apparently you have been Narrativist for at least 8 years. I suspect longer.

Exhibit 3: every time I look at any design notes or any comments you have here on The Forge, your slant is Narrativist. I would hazard a guess that this intuitive Narativism is performed subconciously. That you don't even really understand Gamist motives all that well, and that Simulationist motives would completely baffle you.

FWIW, many here would envy your position. Having had to slog through years of Gamism and Simulationism to only now finally find Narrativism, they would love to have your particular outlook. I would hazzard that your early play experiencees were Narrativist (or possibly horribly mangled Gam or Sim), which is what got you top where you are. Also I would guess that not being an American might have had an effect on the odds of that happening (this relates to European traditions regarding LARPS and other RPG realated activities; Gamism and Simulationism are much rarer in Europe, IME). That could be Exhibit 4.


You are soooo totally right about the whole not having the language to speak about these things at the time. People still did after a fashion, but it was difficult. My point was not that you were at fault, but rather the lack of recognization of the GNS problem early on in a coherent form.

So my point is that, yes, you were dissapointed (so it fits in this thread, which we are threatening to derail), but I don't see fault with the GM or anyone else. Just a lack of understanding.

I'm willing to bet that amongst Forgites that the majority of their "Worst Campaign" experiences have to do with play style incompatibility. Mine do. I could point to the Vampire game that soured me on "Storytelling" because the GM just dragged us through the story as little more than window dressing. But I understand now that this was just a case of us both having different ideas of what "Role-Playing Games" were supposed to be about. The other players apparently loved it.

Mike


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 26, 2002, 02:44:09 PM
Hey,

Perhaps the, ummm, personal observations might be taken to private email. Mike, you know I'm in solid agreement with your points, in this case, but let's give Ferry a break ... he's been a good sport about it and has now asked twice for us to drop it ... at least go private, huh?

Best,
Ron


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ben Morgan on March 26, 2002, 04:21:23 PM
A qualifying statement: forgive me if I overstep my bounds by making sweeping generalizations and mass asumptions of various circumstances. My intent is not to pick over someone else's post, but to address specific issues that they are raising by posting their story, and see if I can help identify some 'problem spots' along the way. That said:

Quote from: wyrdlyng
My worst campaign/gaming experience was a World of Darkness campaign which completely turned me off of most White Wolf games.

Quick synopsis: it started as a Mage game with some were-cats living fighting the Technocracy in New Orleans and the surrounding bayou. Eventually, the story progressed, characters came and went, and the characters relocated. I don't recall exactly why but we ended up living in a cave network in the middle of Asia (I truly can't recall what led up to that).


Correct me if I'm wrong, but this sounds like crosover stuff. In my experience, crossovers generally fall flat, due in part to the fact that each game in the WoD series, despite the rather gamist ruleset they have in common, has a completely different narrative focus (I won't go so far as to say Premise, even though that's what it should be). The idea that all these games work together is nice in theory, but it should be used as a way of facilitating familiarization for people who've played other games in the series, nothing more. In other words, just because these entities (werewolves, mages, vampires, whatever) all ostensibly exist in the same world, doesn't mean that they belong in each others' stories without certain guiding principles. This may or may no have been the problem, however, so I'm going to drop it in favor of more obvious signs of dysfunction.

Quote
By this point things were somewhat irritating in that no matter what the group did or tried to accomplish it was always (I mean ALWAYS) undone by external powers. The entire world setting itself was actively working to foil us. This was the first bad sign.


Agreed. Having a villain or three routinely foil your plans sets up a good nemesis/es. Howeer, having the best laid plans of mice and men routinely go down the drain because of 'random' circumstances is just lame. In the WW system, this responsibility falls directly on the STs shoulders.

Quote
Secondly, some of the players had started forming their own clique and going off on their own in the middle of games and working towards their own private agenda. Had this been an in-character thing I owuld have been okay with it. Conflict within the group is good grist for stories. But it wasn't an in-character thing. It was the players doing it.

So, a rift grew and the group found itself split into three groups. Those in this secret clique, those who thought that this clique-thing was a bad idea for the game and those who didn't care either way. It grew worse and worse until the game reached a breaking point.


This sounds like a couple of problems, which may be related. First of all, I'm assuming that the group has to be of a certain size for three distinct sects to form within it, so this points to having too many players. The fact that there was disharmony in the group is obvious now (something that may be exacerbated by more players), but it may not have been at the time, but even if it was, the solution to actually sit everyone down and discuss it OOC probably wasn't. I've been in many situations where this was an issue, mainly because our GM was someone who did not take well to criticism, and any attempt to address such issues was seen as a personal attack, and dealt with accordingly.

Quote
One of the characters was an old style mummy with some human servants. When we got together for our weekly game we were told that one of the human servants had been killed somehow inbetween game sessions. Most of us were confused as hell and we (the players) tried to figure out what was going on. Nothing had been mentioned at the end of the last game and now suddenly someone's NPC was dead before the game even started.

In game, we hesittantly used every resource we had and determined how the NPC was killed and traced it back to the other players (the secret clique). The game got really heated as players started yelling (with the mummy player needing to be restrained) trying to get answers as to what happened and why. The GM explained that after everyone else had left he and the small clique remained and continued playing with the outcome being that they killed this non-present player's follower.

Suffice to say the group (players) never met again and we never played with the GM or those secret clique players again. The shame of it was that my wife was good friends with one of the players who joined that clique and they have never spoken since. We boxed up our White Wolf stuff and stopped gaming all together for several months.

To this day I still can't believe that the GM didn't think that letting those players do that wouldn't cause problems. He should've told them that this would be a bad idea and discuss the possible out-of-game ramifications.


I agree that a significant portion of the blame here falls on the ST. Sure, those players shouldn't have gone off and formed their own little clique, but it also behooves the ST to discourage that kind of splintering, at least among the players (not, as you said, if it was simply among their respective characters).

I know that a lot of this thread is 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' stuff, but I believe it's helpful in several ways:"

    1.     It gives everyone an opportunity to sit down and actually think out "Okay, this is what I didn't like about this game or that game, so now I can avoid that in the future."

    2.     It lets everyone know that it's not just them.[/list:u]


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Zak Arntson on March 26, 2002, 06:56:21 PM
Worst Campaign Ever? I've had two terrible gaming experiences. One I managed to save a little.

The first one was when we would get together and play Robotech/RIFTS crossover. I was in my early teens I think, and we would meet at the hobby shop (clue #1: random group). The GM told us to roll up characters, but without setting anything up other than Setting, "You are in the RIFTS world with Robotech mechs all over." This led to me thinking of a cool character to explore, a Vagabond. Everyone else played super-powered robot/drug-enhanced crazy people. My PC was just a homeless guy. (clue #2: No discussions on expectations).

It's pretty plain vanilla bad game experience. Very Simulationist, the social contract consisted of "you say it, you do it. The GM arbitrates." Not much else to say.

---

The second terrible game was a D&D game at a local store. The other players were pretty new to gaming. It was a bizarre old-school dungeon crawl where each room was chosen randomly from the map. Basically, "Your party kicks the door down, here's what's inside. Deal with it."

It was soooo boring. The other players were having a good time, it seemed. I was playing a samurai, and to spice things up I was playing the "fish-out-of-water" act. Acting about these strange traditions of running into a room and killing the inhabitants without question.

So the next room rolls around and my samurai rushes in and decapitates some werewolf. It then turns back into a little boy. All the players (not their characters) were horrified at me for doing this. I explained (in character) that I was following their lead. My samurai could not reconcile his act within himself and immediately set to committing suicide.

That's when it turned from the worst game ever into the one of those unintentionally hilarious moments. As my samurai tried to recoup his honor, the entire party was trying to keep him alive. Hold Person spells, attacking him, tying him up, and so on. So there was the poor samurai, frozen in place, tormented by his crime, reviled by players, yet the Gamism overrode the horror.

---

Lessons learned? An explicit social contract and working out your expectations before the game starts. I haven't given up on gaming in stores with random groups, but I'll be darn sure to ask more questions beforehand.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: J B Bell on April 03, 2002, 09:36:43 AM
Just recently I had my single worst game ever, followed by worst separation experience form a gaming group ever.  After diplomatically informing the GM that I did not care to continue, I made a mistake and responded to his follow-up query asking me why, and asking me to be honest.  The letter below, the GM's reply quoting my letter, sums up what happened pretty decently, I think, and is a major red flag that demonstrates the importance of getting that pre-game interview whether you are the GM or the new player.  I have removed identifying information of the people involved and the game system and setting; the letter is otherwise unedited.

---------------------

Hey JB

> I apologize for being so long in getting back in touch with you.  Since
> you asked me to be honest, I will.  I have taken this long because I've
> struggled a good deal with whether my words will have any useful effect,
> given what I take to be a very striking difference in our perspectives,
> but on the chance that it may be enlightening for one or both of us,
> here's the substance of why I chose not to continue.

No problem, thanks for the honest reply.

> It boils down to two major issues.  First, there is this matter of the
> depiction of rape in your game.  I was worried about that from the start
> from looking at the Pargaddis campaign chronicle, and this is part of
> why I was keen on meeting before doing any actual gaming.  However, with
> the prospect of getting to play for the first time in over a year, I
> rushed ahead anyway.

Yes, I was looking forward to a new player and potentially a GM! :)

> So the first die roll I get to make in the game is to see how my troops
> react to my meting out of justice against the crime of rape.  I don't
> think it's cool to foist such a thing on a player without getting
> consent for it ahead of time.  It's a very heavy, loaded issue.  I have
> more than one friend who has been raped, and nearly every woman I've
> been friends with who I've known well enough to talk about it has dealt
> with some kind of sexual harassment or assault.  I have really strong
> feelings about this, needless to say.  Obviously rape is a real
> phenomenon, and in a game, it is one thing that can be addressed.  But
> at the same time, we play these games for entertainment and we choose
> the forms that entertainment takes.  I don't watch movies about rape,
> and I watch movies that include rape at all only rarely, and advisedly.

Aha!  Well that is your view and that is fine.   As a GM I would be doing a
disservice to the players if I failed to write or show warfare in anything
other than its true light.  Show me a war where there was a lack of plunder,
rape and horrendous deaths and I will prove it a fiction.  For me it is quite
ludicrious for a player to happily spend their time killing people and being
violent in the game yet show squeemishness based on their own limited
cultural perspectives.  It smacks of poor roleplaying and hypocracy.  It is
okay for you to kill another man's son in a game (usually for money), but to
contemplate a game where rape and torture exist, as they do in the real world
is too much for you?  Bizarre.  I gave you a chance to deal with the problem,
I also showed you the _truth_ of a marching army and free company.  If you so
wish I can provide you with an extensive bibliography of historical mercenary
units to reinforce the point.  I find it ridiculous for an educated man to
find that hard to grasp.  

The bottom line here is that _if_ you can't face that reality in a mere game
world, then I surely cannot respect you as a human being because you would be
unable to face that reality in the real world.  It is no wonder you spent so
much of your life on drugs, as plainly you wish to avoid facing reality.  

> Now we have the guy [. . .]; unfortunately his name escapes
> me.  From the beginning of the evening, he spouted some of the most vile
> misogyny it's been my displeasure to hear in person in quite some time.
> I called him on it, weakly, once, jabbing lightly at him for
> complaining about dating "stupid 19-year old models"--"well, you dated
> her, what does that say about you?"  He didn't demonstrate a sense of
> humour about it, so I backed off.  I'd say his crowning zinger was when
> the hapless woman who was there mentioned how her allergies (or a cold
> or whatever) led to stinging eyes recently, and he joked with her
> boyfriend, "ha ha, you shouldn't come on her face."  Ha ha.

[The guy]  is without doubts a pig at times, he does it to push buttons.  
Deliberately.  And, yes he is a misogynist and proud of it.  My view is that
he is over the top and I tell him so.  I won't tell him how to run his life,
nor would I preach to you about how your drug habit supports organised crime
and the damage that causes a lot of innocent people, what is the point?  We
are each going to live our lives according to our needs and desires.  
However, [the guy] would also back me up in any situation, would exhibit extreme
loyalty to me in an hour of need and would never, ever wimp out when a tough
decision was to be made.  For those qualities he is my friend and will always
be so.  Sometimes one has to look below the politically correct, socially
accepted facade to find the real person.  In many cases the PC brigade are
the worst bunch of spineless, back-stabbing losers I've met, but there are
always exceptions.

> I feel I should have said more there, really just stopped everything to
> respond properly, but I was alone among people I did not know well
> socially, literally far from home.  

Hmm, didn't stop you cadging a ride from him did it?  You know, if you had
stood up and left due to your beliefs, I would have respected you as a man of
principle, even if I didn't agree with you.  But as is so typical of your
kind, you speak the words only when it is safe to do so.  If you believe in
what you say so strongly, you would have walked home. Hell I would have given
you a ride myself even though it would be an hour and a half out of my way,
if you had stood by your principles.

>I was ashamed as a man to see thisstereotypical behavior from another man,

Go outside of your little circle and meet reality.  I meet them every day,
and if you think [the guy] is a problem, meet the sickos who peddle child porn,
meet the mafiya men who kill and torture for drug money, meet the people who
abduct children, meet the Springer Show people who have domestic assaults out
their ears etc etc.  You said you came from a place where there were running
gun battles every night, yet you still have the luxury of worrying about
stereotyping?  I think you might want to look at adjusting your sense of
perspective to fit the real world.  Here is a plan, go and get a security
job, spend a few months working in the Surrey core or east end properties and
we'll see how your world view shifts.  At the very least you should try it
just to get an alternate view to what you are used to.  

>ashamed as a person for not
> defending the honor of someone who was being treated very wrongly, and
> particularly ashamed as a gamer that a woman would that night walk away
> having some of our worst stereotypes confirmed.

I felt sorry for her being there in the first place, it would be boring for
anyone not into it.  
 
> It may be that the young woman is entirely used to that kind of exchange
> and considers it all good-natured fun, but it certainly made a horrible
> impression on me.

My goodness, you are easily upset.  

> I don't know any neat way to wrap up this letter.  I've done my best to
> be very concise and that may come off as nastier than I intend, but
> there's little to say that I can think of to soften it at all.  

Your letter is not in the least bit nasty, I asked for your opinion and you
gave it.   I respect your decision and the fact that you wrote back.  

> I would
> only say that I do hope you all continue to enjoy your game and each
> other's company as you certainly seem to have done for a long time, and
> that in spite of having had a bad experience I don't wish anyone ill of it.

And you.  I wish you well in your life, good luck with it all and good gaming!

Regards

[The GM]


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 03, 2002, 10:09:59 AM
Oy.

What interests me the most about this exchange is how completely the GM/respondent took it to the ad hominem level. None of his response concerned the enjoyment or content of the game itself, but rather it was all about criticizing JB's values or life-perspective.

For example, if I'm reading it right, JB was not criticizing the presence of rape in wartime as a setting-issue during a game session, but rather its immediate or unheralded use for his player-character's decision. In other words, not, "Oh how awful, rape, eek, what a bad person the GM must be," but rather, "Geez, I have to deal with this right now, first session, first scene?" Yet the fellow responds strictly in terms of the values-issue, specifically as if he had been attacked and attacking in kind ("... if you can't face that reality in a game-world ..."). JB says, "How about some consent first?" The GM says, "Oh, you can't handle the topic, can you?"

I'm pretty sure that there's no point in dissecting the fellow's various comments about real-world and Politically-Correct this-or-that. At this late date, classic PC and classic Limbaugh outlooks have both reached the point of self-parody. However, I'll focus on one thing: the presence of the female player.

Notice the complete disconnect between JB's point and the GM's response. JB (paraphrase): "This woman probably carried off a sickening impression of male gamers." The GM (quoting): "I felt sorry for her being there in the first place, it would be boring for anyone not into it."

Does anyone else feel down the rabbit hole on this one? In at least three different ways, like I do? Now I'll be first to say that JB's point is questionable and relies on assuming the woman's reaction based on her femaleness, without confirmation. That would be an arguable response to his actual, real point. But the response he got was ... well, cue Twilight Zone theme.

Based only on the exchange that's provided, it seems to me that the GM is skilled in this art: interpreting a statement as criticism, then reacting strongly to that criticism. It's disguising Hawk behavior (bullying) as Retaliator behavior (defending), to use the game-theory jargon.

Well, anyway, no one can play well with people they dislike, at least not for a long time. (On second thought, I admit that real band members do this, but only if they're making money.)

JB, regardless of the details of the values-differences between you and the two group members (GM and misogynist-boy), what matters is that the GM is treating your concerns with utter disrespect and taking the argument to the insult-level immediately (ie he cannot discuss without "defending," which is really disguised hostility). You're well out of there.

Best,
Ron


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: joshua neff on April 03, 2002, 10:43:50 AM
"Oy."

That was my gut response, also.

Dead right on it being classic bully behavior--making personal attacks, writing in a detached, "reasonable" tone (as a psychological way of trying to sound like his ad hominem attacks are perfectly sound & logical statements). Creepy.

I can see how that would be a bad gaming situation to be in, JB, & if I were you, I'd run far away from them.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: J B Bell on April 03, 2002, 11:58:53 AM
Thanks for your responses, folks.  I don't want this to be a pity-party--Ron's response is the kind of thing I was interested in.  (Thanks, though, to those who have PM'ed me sympathetically, I do appreciate it.)  For clarification's sake, it's worth mentioning the woman in question was not playing, but observing the session.

I just deleted a paragraph about "how can I negotiate ahead of time in a way that will avoid this, yet not select me out of groups that reject my 'pc-ness'?"  I think I handled it about as well as was possible in the circumstances, and will just distill it down to this:  whatever concerns you may have, bring them up up-front without being ashamed about it; better to avoid misunderstandings at the outset.  Also, if you have a "bad feeling" about a game, do not ignore it!  People instincts operate for gaming groups as well as any other kind of social encounter; they should be developed and listened to.

--JB


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Balbinus on April 04, 2002, 08:42:59 AM
I have on occasion wished to include in a game real life elements such as those cited, in the context of armies sacking cities and so on.  Two things are essential in doing so - firstly not dwelling on such things ("your soldiers rampage through the city raping, looting and murdering" is probably ok if you wish to address such issues as they are now clearly present, describing rape scenes as they happen I would see as dwelling for the sake of it usually); secondly and far more importantly, checking your players are cool with this.

That doesn't mean you have always to ask, if you've been playing together for ages and you know they are all hard-core history buffs who want maximum verisimillitude you can probably include it, if some or all players prefer a more heroic world to adventure in it's probably best not to.  Any doubt, any at all, ask.  You rarely go wrong by asking.

If you don't know a player, you have to talk about stuff like this.  Or better yet, don't include it at all until you get a better idea of that player's tastes.  Few games are crippled by not including this kind of stuff.  Even in hyper-realistic games players generally assume these things are happening but not on-stage.

Anyway, these GM replies are bizarre.  Bad luck.  Better luck next time, and don't be ashamed of your PC-ness.  Groups should accept you as you are or not.  Anything else won't really work in the end.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: contracycle on April 04, 2002, 10:07:32 AM
moving swiftly on...

Of all the many and glorious blunders of my GMing career, one I remember was overdoing the narrow victory thing.  I'd whittle at the characters, more or less, in classic sim/gamist dungeon crawls, until eventually they had to sit me down and tell that they would like an honest to god clean victory, just once.  The gist of a fairly ugly conversation was that no matter what hell they went through to gain a level or whatever, they would go through much the same hell next time.  They never got to enjoy the fruits of victory.  It was especially gruelling because we were playing a heavily reffitted D&D with hit locations and qualitative wound levels; as a result the endgame often displayed a lot of limping and crawling, and improvised crutches.  A the time I understood this as my error in translating D&D conventions of hit point attrition to a specified wound system; more precisely, in light of the Forge, I would say that I was also serially deprotagonizing the PC's. Part of the problem, I think, is that D&D had little in the way of reward systems beyond power progression.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: leomknight on April 24, 2002, 01:46:25 PM
What a fun topic; like comparing diseases (I had runny sores with mine!)

So, my three runniest sores:
One of the first D&D games I ever ran in. I ran a wizard, had henchmen, got them killed. Came out of the dungeon with 2 hits left, some magic armor, and a magic sword. Went to the good temple. Cleric wouldn't heal me until I killed a gargoyle in the temple. Found out I couldn't even hit it. "Why?" I asked. "Because you need a magic weapon to hit it."
"No prob. I use the magic sword."
"You can't."
"Why not?"
"Wizards can't use swords."
You see where this is going. Every situation was a frustrating trick, or an outright deathtrap, and the GM gave absolutely no slack for creativity. It made me hate D&D with a passion.

Runny sore #2: a very witty and creative GM named Karen was trying the then new Rolemaster rules. At that point, it was a box full of previously released supplements like Arm's Law and Spell Law, with very poor organization. We couldn't even figure out how much damage we took. We ran into a random encounter, had a fight that lasted about two hours, and spent the next game month recovering from our wounds and searching for medicinal herbs. Finally, Karen gave up, threw out the rules, and winged it. Much better.

The runniest sore: not a campaign, but a tournament at a con. I think it was at Towson State, it was Traveller. Our characters were recruits at a military boot camp. We were supposed to solve some mystery, but we weren't sure what. We asked questions. No one knew anything. We tried hacking into the computer. No info. We tried to steal weapons. No weapons available. We were told a ship would arrive. We said we'd wait for the ship. I had a feeling that the GM had no adventure prepared and was wasting our time. Each person around the table tried to do something, anything to relieve the boredom. And this was a tournament! I lost my temper and asked, "Do you even have ANYTHING prepared?" He said when the ship arrived, something would happen. I said, "In roleplaying games, here's how a ship arrives: you say, 'The ship arrives.'" This appeared to be a new idea to him. I walked out. My friends who stayed told me it got even worse. An hour stolen from my life that I will never have back.

Oooh! Look how runny it is!


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Kenway on April 26, 2002, 03:36:16 PM
One sure fire way to kill your ad&d campaign is to have the party find a Deck of Many Things.  Hopefully you remember this item- dig out your old DMG or search on the net if you're not sure.
  Whenever we found one of these things, some pcs would end up possessed, sent to another dimension, or killed irrevocably by Death.  But a lucky few would end up with a bunch of extra magic items and XP levels richer.  Not exactly the most game-balancing thing to happen!
  In fact, most of the unlucky ones- if they managed to be alive, would get so jealous they would gang up and kill the "lucky" pcs!

  Good things to come out of this:  when some of our later campaigns started to get stale, we'd all agree to find a Deck OMT just to spice things up and/or kill everybody off;).
  Whoever was left standing was declared the winner of that campaign! We were somewhat able to turn something that was originally really bad into something at least moderately entertaining.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: leomknight on April 28, 2002, 05:38:16 AM
Kenway,
I couldn't agree more. Nearly every random event generator like that can be a campaign killer. I one made the mistake of using "Hela's House of Dark Delights" by Ken St Andre. It was set up like a solo dungeon. The players are offered a menu of choices: do you want to change? do you want to be famous? etc. Ultimately, you reach a character altering event. It really threw a wrench into my campaign.

In an early game, we ran afoul of "The pillars of Judgement". Your character stood between them, dice were rolled, and good or bad things happened. One fellow kept going back to undo all the defects the pillars had given him, until his character exploded. He was so mad, he walked out and never came back. Can't say I blame him.

My friends used to kid me about my hatred of random encounters. You know: "orcs, 2-12, treasure type Q." Always a waste of time. If a GM has gone to the trouble of planning an adventure, why mess it up with something so, well, random? I would look through the lists, choose the ones that I thought related to the adventure, and  keep them in reserve for slow moments. I suppose that reveals my narrativist tendencies.

Why are some players so attracted to these things? I think it's the lotto fantasy: big jackpot, no effort. If you can walk into a room, or pick a card, and get a reward equivalent to weeks or months of playing, why not? It also may be boredom. Sometimes, when thing get slow with my group, they start chanting "Deck! Deck!" Always a bad sign.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Joe Murphy (Broin) on May 03, 2002, 07:18:20 AM
Great thread. Not just fun, but educational. I'm spotting two or three topics that really bug people, like the sharing of power, lack of preparation, and lots of miscommunication.

I ran a very and session of ShadowRun, at a tournament. The scenario was quite awful. 6 or 7 completely unrelated characters all have various reasons to break into a house I think the magic-using owner had just died, so one PC was a gang member who wanted to trash the place, another was a corporate mage who wanted plunder, and so on. However, the house still some aggressive squatters. Dungeonbashing ahoy.

One player came to me, pointed out the house was just made of stone, and that his heavy machine gun could easily fire right through the building. I let him take out a few of the inhabitants, but the rest 'hid', I explained. Another player was a chemistry genius, but I explained that cooking up a batch of sleeping gas would just 'take too long'. I had absolutely no idea how to cope with players who so efficiently could short-circuit the 'plot'.

The worst game I played in was a Kult campaign that lasted a year or so. My mousy editor character had a detailed, flavorful background involving various deals made with a demon. The demon had given him a lovely wife, a lovely home, and a good job, and so on. All set to get into character, having spent *weeks* considering just how to play the fellow, I was told that I woke up one morning to find my wife eviscerated.

Then the other players found me, sort of kidnapped me, and I was somehow expected to roleplay intense, psychotic grief for the first few gaming sessions. Worse still, the other characters (and players) never took it seriously. Yeuch.

There's nothing quite like trying to summon up grief and loss from your psyche while other players make ass jokes.

Joe.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: blackmanxy on May 05, 2002, 03:42:27 AM
Worst campaign, hm.  Well, an earlier poster noted that one tends to leave bad games and that's precisely what I did with my own personal worst.

A friend of mine deciding to run Fading Suns.  I'd been wanting to either run or play it for a while, so I jumped at the chance.  I dropped out after about five sessions.  The problems, while small, were many.  I'll list and explain.

Who's Playing This Week?: Seven people showed up for the first game.  That's a lot of people for a group as roleplay and story-intensive as us.  Two dropped out, one joined later, and one just couldn't be bothered to make it every session.

So, You Did Read Through the Entire Book, Right?: The GM and I had *extremely* different ideas about what the FS universe is like.  I can't, of course, say mine is right, but everything I liked about Fading Suns... wasn't there.  I also knew the FS canon a *lot* better than she did.  This wasn't as problematic as the differing ideas about the game, though it did result in a nasty and probably unwarranted feeling on my part that she ran the game the way she did because she didn't understand the setting.  That is, I don't think the fact that it ran like Star Wars was a conscious choice - it was because she knew Star Wars and didn't know Fading Suns.

"Yes" and "No:" Every GM needs to know when to say each of those.  What is appropriate to say when depends on the GM and the group, but I can't believe it's purely a matter of opinion.  Basically, whenever a character asked for something, the answer was "yes."  Even when the question was "can my character become the Emperor of the Known Worlds?"  (I wish I was joking....)  Whenever any character tried to take an action that directly opposed one of her favored NPC's, however, the answer was "no."  I had a character already crippled by my lack of understanding of the (broken) Fading Suns system.  When all of my best-laid plans to circumvent system problems with sheer cunning were shot down out-of-hand, I got a little tired of playing.

Wow, Taking a Few Liberties, Aren't Ya?: This is a bit related to the above problem.  Every character had an extremely in-depth, often complicated past.  Even players who normally only bring in simple characters.  The GM took huge liberties with said backgrounds, however.  Despite the players discussing with her exactly how they'd like said backgrounds to be handled, exactly what they should mean to the character, and exactly the story they'd like to tell with them, several people walked away from the game rather dissatisfied.  One character had a background that was all about star-crossed love and the eventual death of his wife because of it.  A major turning point for the character was supposed to be when he got over his grief and managed to press on with his life.  He learned later that his wife was part of a Sathraist cult and was little better than the demon-worshipping antagonists we were pursuing.  I can think of no worse way to have handled it.  Neither could the player.  He attended one session after that game.  It was one session longer than I lasted (and I think it was the last session of the game).

What a Coinky-Dink!: For the majority of the game, there were five core players.  Four of us had backgrounds that involved a noble house called the Decados.  It just made sense for them to be an antagonistic group.  Though I eventually got my background retroactively altered to *heavily* overlap the background of another character, the rest of the backgrounds were unrelated.  Or so we thought.  Just coincidentally, all these disparate people found themselves facing off against a group of antagonist NPC's, each of whom was somehow related to the a PC's background.  This would have been fine if the group had been brought together because of their interrelated backgrounds.  As it was, it was just one of those million-to-one quirks of fate that make so many games look so cheezy.

All Wrapped Up in a Neat Little Package: This ties into the coincidences.  Every player expected over the course of what would presumably be a long campaign that the issues from their long, involved backstories would be resolved.  Little did we know they would be resolved within the first story arc, a period encompassing mere weeks of in-game time.  It left little to hope for, really.  Oh, it also involved five different angles running in the plot at a time.

Can I Play Now?:  Sadly, the GM couldn't handle all those angles.  We spent a lot of time with the characters split up and so, as players, we spent a lot of time roleplaying.  One night, the entire group hung around for an hour while she ran something with just one player.  That very night, one player wasn't involved at all.  That's right, he didn't game that night.  He played Black & White all night instead.  And it was about a 6-hour session, too.

This Ain't Call of Cthulhu: The GM drove a character insane.  Seriously.  He burned down a temple and torched quite a few innocents because he heard voices in his head telling him to.  This wasn't unwanted player action, by the way, it was exactly what she'd wanted.  I guess he somehow became sane before the next session.

Deus Ex Machina: During the climactic end of the story arc (the last session I attended), there was an event of serious religious importance.  It wasn't a miracle, but it was highly, er, mystical and it had some interesting effects.  Basically, the GM allowed each player one action that was guaranteed success.  This was in part because we were getting our asses kicked by over-powered NPC's and, I believe, in part because my character couldn't succeed within the system and had all his attempts to succeed outside the system shot down.  It is so... so... insulting to be *handed* an important scene in your character's development, without my roleplaying even being a factor.

BANG!: Worse, someone else used their action to totally destroy what little value this scene had for my character.  I'll explain.  My character had a long history with two young nobles of the aforementioned House Decados.  He was basically a servant to a Decados family, and the two sons of this family tormented him throughout his childhood.  My character had killed one of the sons as part of his backstory - the issue between the other brother and my character had gotten very personal indeed.  Anyway, after realizing that my character could not ever, barring loaded dice, take the NPC in a fair fight, and after every attempt to roleplay the situation into my favor was slapped down almost before it was out of my mouth, I was basically handed this NPC's life.  The Deus Ex Machina action it was assumed I would take was killing this man.  It was a weak resolution, but I'd take it.  Or I would have.  If another PC hadn't shot him.  Yes.  In the midst of my character's duel, just before he was struck the killing blow... someone else... shot him.  Since we'd all been given DEM, guaranteed success actions, the GM couldn't very well say "no," right?

That last session really was the final straw for me.  It didn't lead to any particularly hard feelings, though I'm leery about gaming with some of these people (and playing under this GM - though I'm about to start in a Star Wars game with her).  And it really wasn't a terrible campaign.  It was good to start with, then boring and contrived, and only truly bad that last session.  It's just that the rest of my games have been so good.

Anyway, sorry I'm so long-winded.  Didn't mean for my first post here to be this long.  But anyone who knows me from LiveJournal or the sorc-fan list a few years ago should be used to it.  ; )


Title: My current worst campaign
Post by: Trav on May 05, 2002, 05:14:26 PM
For the last three or four months I have been playing in a game that just hasn't worked at all.  We have a good group of gamers, we've all played together before, and we've played successful campaigns together.  One person started up a 3e campaign.  The setting is one we've all played before, and that we've all had a lot of fun in.  

The last time that we played in the setting though, we were playing in second edition.  The GM is probably the best game master I had ever played with.  This campaign just never really got started well.  The first problem started with the change in editions of D&D.  Before, the GM wasn't afraid to make any call, and the players would never argue with him about a ruling during the game.  Now, we have a player or two who turn into rules lawyers and whine and complain about any call that he makes.  So, before we even get to the game often the mood is killed.  As the campaign has gone on though, this has gotten better as we've sat down and talked about arguing about rules all the time.  

Then came our next problem.  One of my friends used the term Plug-n-play roleplaying to describe it.  As we played we felt that our characters didn't matter in the game, like you could take any group of characters and throw them in(it felt kinda like playing in a module).  A lot of this came from underdeveloped characters and underdeveloped goals.  Our problem with this was that we only got to play once a month, so we didn't really notice what was causing the problem.  It was funny because one night after we were done, a few of us were sitting down and talking about it and we finally realized that we all had the same problems with the game.  

Since then, we've talked with the GM and the other players, and things have started to get better, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  Its funny how a group and a setting can be the same, but the results can be so different.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: Kenway on May 06, 2002, 07:46:02 AM
Blackmanxy:  All that happened in *one* campaign?  Ouch.  Very nicely organized post, though.

  One early bad AD&D adventure I was in:
  There were about 4 of us and we were about 4th level.  We had been using these characters since 1st level and worked hard for months.
  One day, a couple of us suggested, hey, wouldn't it be cool if we could kill Demogorgon?  Hopefully, you're familiar with this Demon Prince- he's ludicrously powerful and has the best HP and Armor class in the 1st edition DMG.  Everybody who has the 1st edition DMG or Monster Manual dreams of bagging him.
  Our DM says sure.  After a day or so of prep, we started the adventure.  Cutting to the chase, we found a dimensional portal to the Abyss, we entered and started a fight with the big guy and a couple of his servants.
  After a couple rounds of doing pretty well, the DM said we all got hypnotized (one of Demogorgon's powers I believe) and that was the end of our characters.

  We were stunned.  But then we realized "what did you think was going to happen?"
  I guess we (the PCs) were to blame because no 4th level characters in their right mind go into the Abyss looking for a Demon Prince!
  But maybe the DM should have just said, you're going to die you know, and stopped us.


Title: Your worst campaign ever?
Post by: leomknight on May 06, 2002, 02:06:59 PM
Trav,
My group just started using the D&D3 rules, too. Our usual DM, who had a firm grasp of the old rules, seemed a little intimidated by the new edition. We've been constantly interrupted by real life (I hate when that happens!), but I think most of his problems will iron themselves out with experience. I've been acting as kind of a rules gofer, looking up stuff because I have a good memory for where things are.

More daunting, though, is they way some of the players approach the game. If something isn't on their character sheet, they won't try it. I've tried to explain that, with the new rules at least, everyone has a chance to do almost any mundane task. You may suck, or crash and burn, but you can TRY! But in spite of (or perhaps because of?) the wide array of options listed (skills, feats, etc.) some of the players just plow the same old ruts. I'm hoping that they will become bolder as they realize just how much freedom they have, but I'm afraid years of routine play may have fried their imaginations.