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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Frank T on November 03, 2005, 08:15:50 AM



Title: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 03, 2005, 08:15:50 AM
This is a “help me cure my actual play” post. So I’m playing Pool and PtA and DitV and MLwM and (soon) Polaris with cool folks I know from the internet. Folks who are freaks like me, dedicating a lot of their leisure time to roleplaying. Folks who have read and GM’ed scores of RPGs over the years. I am reading and posting at the Forge. Hell, on GroFaFo I’m the guy they ask about the Forge (along with Nicolas). In the past two years or so, I have shifted my expectations massively. I’m fine with all that.

But there is my “old group”. Know what I mean? The people I used to play good ole Star Wars d6 with before things started to change for me. There are three girls left from formerly five players that started to play Star Wars d6 with me back at school, a decade ago. They have never been in touch with any RPG except through me. None of them has ever read an RPG, let alone considered GM’ing one. They played. With me. That’s all.

Now, I GM’ed Star Wars d6 just as it is suggested by Greg Costykian’s wonderful instructions. Good solid Illusionism. At the time, I was writing a lot of short stories and had huge amounts of creativity to share, so I enjoyed scripting the stories of each and every PC to my liking. I also came up with some pretty good stuff which the players really enjoyed. Of course, you can’t do Illusionism for 10 years without anyone noticing. So the Illusion became an open secret, but the players went along with it. (Would that be Participationism? Whatever.) Until it blew.

I now understand what happened. We had some mostly coherent Sim play, interrupted but not really disturbed by people occasionally trying to Step On Up. It was functional, too. Some of the adventures I ran really rocked. But then… I changed. I didn’t want to do everything by myself anymore. As my ideas (especially with relation to Star Wars) waned, and my need to impress the girls ceased, I got tired of it.

We fixed it for a while through another player GM’ing. As a player, I could still play the way we did and have fun, at least for a while. But that player is no longer with us, it’s just me and the girls. I tried different stuff. Changed backgrounds and rules. The girls don’t like learning new backgrounds and rules. But the real problem was that I changed the way I GM’ed. I tried different styles I had experienced in other groups, and our shared Creative Agenda evaporated. The more so since two of the girls started trying to Step On Up as I took away the GM force that had formerly prevented them, whereas the other one and one other player tried to keep up the Dream. And me, I didn’t know what I was doing at all.

So play has been dysfunctional for the better part of three years now, and I’m the one who brought it about. We didn’t play very often and we are very close friends, so it was still nice to come together, but play wasn’t satisfying any more. The result was that we simply played less and socialized more. Occasionally, I forced myself back to the old participationist railroading Techniques, and the result was instant fun for the girls. Little fun for me, though, especially because I am now loathing the preparation it takes me to run a good dramatic GM-forced session.

Also, I would really like some more input from the girls, but they don’t seem to know how. I explicitly asked them to make up some character motivations and relationships and such, but they will come up with the same Teflon-coated characters and “my guy” stuff. And why would’t they? It’s all they know, and it’s fun to them.

So we’ve talked about this. And they have agreed to try to play “my way” for a bit, to see if they like it and if they want some more of it. If they don’t, that probably means we won’t be playing RPGs together any more, which would be a sad thing. So I have one shot, and I want to make it a good one. If they don’t like it because they just don’t like it, that’s bad luck. But I wouldn’t forgive myself if they don’t like it because I mess it.

I want to do some Forge-style pervy Narrativism with them. The two games I know well and trust myself to run well are PtA and DitV. But I refrain from both. Here’s why:

PtA is wonderful if you have a group of people who have GM’ed half their life. It’s somewhat clumsier for people who’ve never done it, because they aren’t used to the Techniques they will be using. Plus, it’s hard. It requires some serious effort by all participants to come up with good scenes and narrations, one by another. I would prefer a game that doesn’t put just as much pressure on the players.

DitV would be perfect, of course. Perfect but for the fact that we have a Social Contract issue that could really mess up play. See, one of the girls is a cop. Her boyfriend who recently joined the group is a cop, too. Both of them have what I would term, in all due respect, inconsiderate and generalized views on justice. If you know any cops, you probably know what I mean. There is this whole big engine “police” behind this, requiring cops to think that way in order to function. I can accept that. But I cannot discuss issues like justice and law and jurisdiction and politics with them. Neither can the other two girls. We avoid such themes or sit them out.

I do realize that it’d be an intriguing experiment to test our two cops’ resolution with some mean Dogs scenarios. I’d actually love to see it done, some day. But I don’t want this issue between us players to blow my one and only chance to make the group dig Forge-style Narrativist games.

So, I’ve ordered the whole load of Sorcerer, plus TSoY, to see if that could be something to start with. What do you think about that? Is there any useful advice you can give me as to how to approach this? Especially, how much talk in advance versus starting to play straight away? Any similar experiences anyone wants to share?

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 03, 2005, 09:21:05 AM
I've done this a lot, you know. To the extent of having exactly this kind of group of players waiting on the sidelines for us to play something again. So I should have something to say...

First: think again if you can't figure out a game that would fit their agenda and be fun for you. The chances are that such a game can be designed if there isn't one already. I did exactly this with my trad group when I finally realized that they like SIS-exploration gamism (a fucking bitch! just try to differentiate between that and sim through observation), and the gaming has been quite enjoyable.

Well, let's assume that that's not the strategy for now. Talking nar games, I suggest NOT using Sorcerer. In my experience it's not a very good choice when time and patience are scarce. The game can't be forced to click when the players are not open and in optimistic mood. Sorcerer is fine if the players have trust in the GM and the game, but if there's any hostility it's ridiculously easy to sink during the 1-2 sessions it takes to get going.

Instead, what would I suggest? My first suggestion is any game you know absolutely and without hesitation. If there is some game that's even half suitable, use that. The benefit of knowing exactly how the game works and what it does best outweights any non-optimal features the game might have. Even PTA is a better choice than something you don't know, assuming your grasp of PTA is absolute enough. This is pretty much a reflection of my experiences with Dust Devils; I know the game so well that there isn't a roleplayer I can't run it with.

Speaking of Dust Devils, it might be what you want for the job (or I'm just confusing the game with my own expertise with it). The thing is, DD has a very wide range of possible play behavior from the players. It's nar priorities contour nicely over trad behavior and instruct players naturally in curtailing their gamist spirit. It's also very robust against hostile play: a player practically has to know how the game ticks to sabotage it in any way. A skillful Dealer can take anything a player dishes out from passivity to mindless violence and turn it into surprisingly good drama. That's something that turns even a skeptical player really quick. To top it all off, DD is fast; you get to meaningful play in ten minutes if you want to. (If genre is your limitation, worry not: DD does anything with violence from fantasy to scifi.)

Another thing I've noticed: during the last year or so I've played MLwM with very different people. This will sound ridiculous, but for some reason the game seems to be a great gateway game for teenage girls and young women. You need a GM who can figure out the dice to roll and so on, but otherwise the game seems designed for girls. So if your players are the kind that digs melodrama, romance and gothic stuff, that's the game for you. Just throw in a romantically dark Master, lots of veiled language and roses, and that's it.

TSoY: a much better bet than Sorcerer. If you go with it, consider porting to Star Wars setting to keep the players comfortable. Make a point of the gift of dice rules when playing. Play towards the Keys. Be patient, don't try to force weird Forge techniques. They will come when the players learn the rules, not before.

Talking vs. playing: My experience is that you should definitely go direct for play. If you have to talk, talk about concrete techniques of play. Remember that the majority of terminology used to talk about roleplaying is hampered and crippledly confused, so nobody will actually communicate if you try to talk about play in general terms without common referents in experience. Choose a game you can play, and talk about play behavior during the game. That's how I run Dust Devils: I don't even explain the rules before play, I just instruct the players until the get it. TSoY is not as good for that, so there you probably should spend a little while in chargen. But that's apparently not a problem for your players.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Andrew Cooper on November 03, 2005, 09:36:12 AM
I certainly don't disagree with anything Eero has said.  In fact, it seems right on the money.  Especially the part about running a game that you know.  Taking that advice to heart, my suggestion is to use The Pool (or some derivative thereof) with the Star Wars universe.  You mentioned in your initial post that you knew The Pool and let's be frank, it takes all of 5 minutes to explain the game to someone.  It still has a strong GM presence in the game but it does allow for all sorts of cool Nar techniques to be used.  The MoV's allow the players to provide som input into the game without forcing them to do so when it is uncomfortable.  Prep time is as minimal as it gets for the GM.  You need a setting (Star Wars), some characters, and a Relationship Map.  I'd think about The Pool.



Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 03, 2005, 09:45:29 AM
Thanks you two,

wow, so you think Sorcerer isn't it? Damn. Any other opinions on that?

I have thought about the Pool, but I would prefer a game that provides a little more structure, especially at character generation, to drive the players toward interesting relationships and conflicts. MLwM, I don't know very well, and I don't think that the girls would like theme and atmosphere of the game all that much. Also, I don't want to run something in the Star Wars Universe. As much as I love it, I'm tired of running games in the setting, and I also fear to carry over too many assumptions from our "other" games.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 03, 2005, 09:58:47 AM
That's a problem with the Pool, alright. It's a great game if you have boundless enthusiasm, but there's not enough GM tools to force players to react in interesting ways. So the game will just sit in a pit if somebody doesn't push it out, and the GM is in a singularly awful position to do the pushing.

Hey, I intented to recommend Polaris, but forgot. That's one of the games you're familiar with, right? What's wrong with that? The biggest hurdle is the necessity of being the GM for another player, but that's not a problem as long as you're creative with scene framing. The Heart can frame scenes for himself, so in theory the players need only know what they themselves want for their own characters... well, OK, it probably won't work without player commitment to the idea of the game. Bad idea.

I just keep going back to your mention that the players are tired of new settings and rules. That seems to indicate to me that you should start with a game that doesn't require setting knowledge or rules analysis at the beginning. (The tiredness, by the way, is a singularly clear signal that whatever the players have played up to now, system and setting have had no impact on their enjoyment whatsoever.)

InSpectres: Easy, fast, easy, funny and easy. Consider that. Or if not InSpectres, then Orx.

Ultimately, there's no point in recommending games, though. You should pick something you're comfortable and excited about and believe the players can get into as well. Perhaps start with premade characters and scenario? I've found that a powerful technique with character-centered players, because that takes away some of their pedestal and makes them work, which tends to reflect as more interest in the situation. Strange but true. If you want to try Sorcerer, I recommend the fetus-demon scenario from &Sex.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Andrew Cooper on November 03, 2005, 10:14:16 AM
Without trying to press the point too much, there are a couple of things that I've done to cause The Pool to work when playing with the type of players you are describing.  Here's what I've done:

1.)  Add Kickers to the character creation process.  I pretty much used the concept straight from Sorcerer.  It forces the players into action immediately.

2.) I think it is DitV that has the rule for the GM to either "Say yes or roll the dice."  I take the opposite stance with The Pool.  I want the players to be engaged and decide when there's a Conflict and to grap the dice for themselves, so I always say "No..." or "Yes, but this complication happens." unless the players grab the dice and force me through the mechanics to rule in their favor.

Still, The Pool might not be what you're looking for.  FATE is a game that I like.  It's close enough to a "standard" RPG that it won't intimidate the players with really strange rules.  That might not be different enough for you though.  If you want really different, try Universalis or Capes.  I've found that introducing Capes to new players to be really, really easy.  Others might argue but that's been my experience.



Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Scripty on November 03, 2005, 10:14:52 AM
Eero's suggestion for Shadows of Yesterday is a great one, I think. Clinton hit a very sweet spot between traditional rpg's and some fairly stealthy narr techniques. Think Unisystem meets HeroQuest. I'd recommend the version with the Fudge dice. I haven't had a chance to play the revised version yet but the Fudge dice (in my opinion) would simplify the system a bit and I've heard nothing but really, really stellar things about it from people I know who have played the revision. Setting can really be anything you want.

Another possibility, based on my own experience, is trying something like Donjon. Engaging groups that aren't necessarily used to having that level of say in a game can be problematic (again from my experience). I tried over and over to morph a long standing Sim group to a more Narr playstyle. Most of the time they just sat there blinking and waiting for me to tell them what to do, what to see, what to think. It's just how they'd always played.

When we did crossover it was with Donjon. For some reason, the players had a ball of a time with that. Note also that what they came up with was extremely silly. That might be something else to be aware of. For some reason, when I was successful at shifting the group into player-driven play, the results from the players were comedic, even goofy. It might have just been those groups but I'm thinking that unless a group is predisposed to dramatic or heroic play they'll default to abject silliness when spreading their wings for the first few times.

It's safer, socially speaking.

So, you might have some success with a Sci-Fi flavored version of Donjon, with the caveat (even intent) of making light of the Star Wars universe. Hope for Hitchhikers' Guide but tacitly expect Spaceballs. After a brief stint with that game, the group may click on to driving the story (even the setting) through their characters and then you can move forward with a longer SoY or Pool campaign.

I brought Donjon into a dyed-in-the-wool D&D group and they had a blast. Mind you, they had black holes opening up and gnomes getting caught in time loops and giant hallucinogenic mushrooms eating goblins that were farmed for populating dungeons but they had a great time.

It wasn't my intent for the game to go silly. But I went with the flow and it was the players' favorite Forge game I ever ran and the only one other group members actually bought. Again, that could've just been that group, though. Everything they played eventually devolved into a genre-mash with Paranoia or Call of Cthulhu..

I love the game. And would dearly relish the opportunity to play/run/lurk it. But I'd stay away from Sorcerer.

It could give your newbies the impression that Forge games (a.k.a. games that you want them to play) are all uber-serious and angsty. Considering that Sorcerer could easily make Mage or Vampire look like Toon in even the most innocuous of environments, I wouldn't want to intro a group into a CA shift using it. Unless, of course, they're looking for something that will seriously push their buttons.

If you're intent on using it, though, I'd consider Paka's schoolkids-as-sorcerers, evil Pokemon setting. Lighter would be better, to my thinking.

Scott


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on November 03, 2005, 11:10:49 AM
If you want really different, try Universalis or Capes.  I've found that introducing Capes to new players to be really, really easy...

Capes can get really silly, really fast (look at any number of Actual Play threads), precisely because silliness is the natural, safe reaction to such wide-open GM-style "Director Power" for every player. On the upside, it really encourages, even forces , players to use that director power in a big way. I think all you'd need is one player (that'd be you) who's sufficiently comfortable with the Capes rules and Forge technique in general, and who has sufficient status in the group, who can authoritatively answer every question of the form "So, can I do..." with a resounding "yes!"

Plus the rules are pretty straightforward, the superhero genre's familiar but not intimidating (and makes it easier to shed concerns about "realism"), and I've seen Tony kickstart a game with total newbies in minutes -- you just

1) Give everyone about 60 seconds to combine two click-and-locks they find appealing into a character.
2) Assign everyone either Heroic or Villainous drives, instantly creating (at least) two sides.
3) Take the first turn and throw out some kind of big, glaring conflict (Tony's was "Goal: Kill the President on live TV").

Oh, and, especially if you take a little more time to create Exemplar NPCs (easy enough: Player A chooses one half of a click-and-lock, Player B chooses the other, fit them together, BAM! Shared exemplar for them to fight over), Capes does superhero soap opera very well, because petty interpersonal conflicts are mechanically as significant as giant planet-smashing conflicts: As the instigator, look for opportunities to toss these in (e.g. if the good guys are collaborating too well, create "Event: The media gives all the credit to one hero" or "Goal: win the love interest's gratitude.")

So I'd consider Capes as, at least, an "icebreaker" to expose people to a radically different style of playing. Of course, if they like it enough, all the better, play again, since the game really deepens after a couple of sessions as the players establish the world together.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: CPXB on November 03, 2005, 11:31:47 AM
I've recently gone through the same sort of issues with my gaming group.  A year and a half ago, edgy role-playing for me was making house rules for D&D.  Now I'm playing stuff like Universalis and The Puddle and Pace and these other really light games that have a great deal of player involvement in the narrative.

Messed up my gaming group but good, it did.  *whistles*  Most of them had commitments to traditional styles of play stressing massive illusionism, GM force and a slew of gamist elements.  A lot of them simply had no desire to learn new rules, even if they were much, much simpler than the games they had been playing.  A lot of them had a lot of problem getting their brains around a lot of the concepts.  I was able to bring some of them over to this side of things, but it was touch and go.

Anyway, the biggest problem I had was that most players of traditional RPGs are neither encouraged, expected or really know how to take control of the narrative on any level.  So when you drop narrative control in their laps they freeze.  Even if, given encouragement and practice, they'd improve there is this huge problem that from the get-go they'll associate taking control of the narrative as a confusing, embarrassing experience.  They'll feel like you're putting them on the spot.  Which is fair.  You will be, after all, putting them on the spot.  Which happens to GMs all the time, but is something that players will be very unfamiliar with.

My solution to this is to introduce narrative control pretty slowly.  One of the techniques that really can get players involved is creating the game world.  I don't suggest starting from nothing, but starting with a very rough map and letting the players fill in the blanks.  This makes them feel involved in the setting, while the GM steers things so everything is still "fair".  Then, when they fill in the blanks, you make notes of who put in what elements.  During the game if that element comes up you can turn to the player who put that element there and ask them what they had in mind, to flesh things out.  Do this while doing a pretty traditional game -- d6 Star Wars would be fine.  Then, once they're used to adding to the narrative, ease them into a game with more narrative control, like The Shadow of Yesterday or HeroQuest or Dogs in the Vineyard.  Then, y'know, try The Pool and work your way up to Universalis or Capes if that's your thing.  ;)

The second biggest problem is that they have been trained to do strategic thinking at all times.  Traditional RPGs are very goal oriented.  The destination is way more important than the journey.  So when faced with kickers or bangs, often they'll make real tactical choices -- choices that leave things still up in the air to the greatest extent possible so that they will be able to achieve the goal of the game without having any additional baggage from the choices they make.  So, in a SW sort of game, if they discover that their lover is having an affair with the captain of the ship that carts them around they won't shoot the captain in the head, thus depriving them of a valuable in game resource.  They'll have a resolution to the kicker or bang that leaves them in possession of that resource (perhaps a stern talking to), because they think that the goal of the game is to destroy the Imperial base not resolve the emotional issues of the characters.

This is an almost insurmountable barrier, IME.  Either the players will want to RP out the drama or they won't.  That said, you can still put in kickers and bangs and other such techniques (which are really system independent) and maybe some of them will dig on making solid choices and RPing the consequences of those choices (though the other players might put pressure on them not to rock the boat and to make "sensible" decisions about kickers and bangs).  To the extent that I can give specific advice, I'd advise making the initial kickers and bangs things that don't have a lot of negative consequences on the "point" of the game or make the bangs and such choices between two benevolent situations ("Will the charming rogue pilot seduce the princess or the priestess?" -- either way, the character gains a valuable social contact and even if he seduces neither then no harm will be done).  Then, when they're used to the concept of these in-game decisions and RPing the consequences of them being as legitimate form of RP as just resolving the "adventure" you can start hitting them with bangs where they chose between more complex situations.

This is all in my experience, of course.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 03, 2005, 12:00:44 PM
Thanks everybody! Please don’t stop suggesting games—that’s great! I’ll see if I can use any of those. Unfortunately, I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like for preparation, so I can’t read ‘em all. And if I take the effort to learn one, it should be something that I myself am interested in for running more than one or two times. That’s a concern regarding Donjon and Capes, but I’m not ruling them out yet.

Silliness is exactly my experience with InSpectres. And the “putting on the spot” thing is just how my players will probably be feeling. They have explicitly voiced that they don’t like having to narrate that much. Also, I do fear their habitual behavior. Here’s an idea I had:

For the first session of [game], I bring three big sheets of paper and put them on the table. On the first one is written, in big black letters: “Teflon-coated characters”. And I tell them how this is not going to work and how characters are going to change through the events to come and how what is going to happen in play is going to be real important to the character's life and personality. And I tear the sheet apart.

The second sheet has written “GM plot” on it. And I tell them not to second-guess me. I tell them that my plans for the game are not like a straight line, but like a fractal, an nobody knows where we will end up. And I tear the second sheet apart.

The third sheet has written on it “The Right Thing To Do”. And I tell them about how choices are going to be tough and they’ll have to make choices and there’s no need to go look for the puzzle’s solution for there will be none. And I tear the third sheet apart.

I think that’ll do a good job. But I'd like a game with a strong structure to support the style of play I want to invoke.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: MetalBard on November 03, 2005, 12:05:22 PM
My group switched over to more narrativist play earlier this year with Burning Wheel and overall, it's gone well.  There are little mechanics, like Circles, in there that will sneak narrativist play in on them and most likely have them liking it for its tactical value, then really having fun with it later.  It sounds like Shadow of Yesterday may be similar.  Maybe someone familiar with both games could give a critique as to which one might work best for your situation.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on November 03, 2005, 12:07:15 PM
Inspectres may be the ideal mental icebreaker for veteran roleplayers: You have a GM, you have stats, you roll to succeed, etc. etc., and the wide-open Director Power sneaks in there as a special bonus for good rolls, which looks comfortably similar to "plot points" or whatever rare, hard-to-get metagame privilege a lot of traditional RPGs dole out.

As for Chris's advice on going slowly:

This approach sounds completely logical in the abstract, but it's also what's warned against in every concrete Actual Play-based discussion I've seen here whose moral is "you can't sneak up on Creative Agenda." I suspect it may be harder to make subtle changes in a relatively familiar system than to make drastic, obvious changes in a blatantly different system. It's like the difference between (a) trying to quit smoking by smoking one less cigarette a day until you're down to nothing -- easier to start, hard to finish -- and (b) trying to quit smoking by throwing out every pack in the house. It can be helpful to put a big, glaring barrier up that says "We are doing something different now!" It's possible to interpret Sorcerer as just another traditional RPG (hey, I did, the first time I read it); it's impossible to make that mistake with Capes or Universalis.

Of course, you can try both the slow-and-gentle and hard-and-fast approaches together: Do a one-shot or a back-up game (e.g. alternating weeks) of Capes or Universalis or whatever to shake people up, do something less weird but still different as your regular thrust.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 03, 2005, 12:25:54 PM
Capes.  Fast, flashy, easy, and it goes bang bang bang.  I'd advise using anything with an explicit reward cycle that tells players to declare what their characters care about and then rewards them for addressing it.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Andrew Norris on November 03, 2005, 12:36:31 PM
I think you've got the right idea, Frank. Getting those traditional preconceptions off the table is at least as important as your choice of systems. (I'd lean towards something with a little crunch but that uses conflict resolution and rewards player proactivity, and that suggests TSOY to me.)

The fear of narration is an interesting thing, isn't it? It comes up all the time among veteran players. I wonder how much of that comes from a sense that they have to be as good at narration as your average Illusionist GM, which, hey, would stress me out as well.

I have a few players in my group that had never previously roleplayed. For the most part, they had a lot less "stage fright" than the vets. I try to stress to people, "If you've ever told someone how your day went, you can narrate." I really do believe that.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: MetalBard on November 03, 2005, 12:42:04 PM
"If you've ever told someone how your day went, you can narrate."

Ooh, mind if I use that quote in my sig and at the game table?


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: CPXB on November 03, 2005, 12:58:22 PM
This approach sounds completely logical in the abstract, but it's also what's warned against in every concrete Actual Play-based discussion I've seen here whose moral is "you can't sneak up on Creative Agenda." I suspect it may be harder to make subtle changes in a relatively familiar system than to make drastic, obvious changes in a blatantly different system. It's like the difference between (a) trying to quit smoking by smoking one less cigarette a day until you're down to nothing -- easier to start, hard to finish -- and (b) trying to quit smoking by throwing out every pack in the house. It can be helpful to put a big, glaring barrier up that says "We are doing something different now!" It's possible to interpret Sorcerer as just another traditional RPG (hey, I did, the first time I read it); it's impossible to make that mistake with Capes or Universalis.

Well, my experiences are actual play based.  When I went into indie games the first one I dropped on my group was Universalis.  Dismal failure abounded.  They didn't get it, they didn't like it, they didn't want to play it.  As a group, they stopped playing with me altogether, preferring more traditional formats of gaming.  And not just that group -- virtually everyone I've played narrativist games with have had a lot of problems with them ranging from not really wanting to RP out these emotional travails their characters are involved with to feeling embarrassed and silly after being called upon to offer up narration and being caught flat-footed.

And I am not suggesting sneaking up on them.  I should have made that clearer.  Frank should be open and honest about what he wants out of gaming.  He wants them to take greater narrative control of the game, but in my experience with this dropping traditional gamers straight into something hardcore like Universalis is just a bad idea, whereas I have had some experience easing players into it.

You make the analogy of smoking.  I'll make one of sports.  It is unlikely that a person will play football if the only players they go up against are NFL professionals.  They'll feel weak, slow and be soundly and irrevocably defeated constantly.  They won't have fun.  They'll quit.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: JasperN. on November 03, 2005, 01:05:05 PM
Hi Frank,

I´ve been thinking about this for a while now. It´s kinda hard for me to come up with the kind of input you were asking for, ´cause I really do think that this is about social issues, at least judging from what I know about this group from your post here and the earlier one from a few months ago over at Grofafo, and what else do I have?

The thing is, whenever I start writing about it, I find myself starting to sound patronizing and condescending. I really don´t feel comofortable analyzing people. So I won´t. You´re grown up, you´re smart, you know your friends, not I. Let me say this much, though: I see you putting a lot of pressure on yourself and on your group. You really wanna make this work. I hear " I have one shot, I don´t wanna mess it up" or "If it fails, I wanna make sure it´s not my fault".

My expirience is that you can not make people like the things you like as much as you like them or the same way you like them. At all. It doesn´t work. If you try, it ends with disappointment for either side involved.

The best advice I can give is that you´d pick the game that YOU are most excited about, and bring all of that enthusiasm to the table. And keep playing if everyone likes it, and stop playing with that group if they don´t. You made it clear that non - forgy gaming with them is not an option for you. So what it comes down to is: either they like it or they don´t. They are your friends, you can do other things together. Doesn´t have to be RPG. They´ll understand.

I´m not sure that helps, but it´s the best I can come up with.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 03, 2005, 01:58:25 PM
Hey Jasper,

it's a little trickier than that, I'm afraid. Sure I am totally capable of wasting my time second-guessing the girls and telling myself what else they will reject. I have proved that in the past. However, I think I have learned that lesson as best I can, and my concerns voiced in this thread are valid.

You are right I should only run a game for them that I really want to play myself. That's why I ordered TSoY and Sorcerer, and not Donjon and Capes. But excited though I may be about Polaris, I'm pretty sure that it'd be a very bad idea to play it with them. And a much worse idea to play it with them without ever having played it before.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Scripty on November 03, 2005, 02:12:00 PM
Chris' advice is awesome and completely in line with my experience on the matter at hand. Shadows of Yesterday is a great choice, I think. I'm not so sure about the tearing up of paper thing. Personally, I would be turned off by dramatic devices of that sort. But you know your group best.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Ben Lehman on November 03, 2005, 05:59:08 PM
Frank, I'd like to second your feeling that Polaris wouldn't be good to play with your traditional group.  Maybe if they were native English speakers.

I'd like to recommend Riddle of Steel -- all that I can say is that it worked pretty well for me.  It does a good job of making everything seem like "The GM is still in control.  The GM is still in control." whilst actually giving the players an appalling amount of story control.

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: daMoose_Neo on November 03, 2005, 07:34:06 PM
Really not to try and be a pimp, but if you check my sig, my Imp Game - Mischief & Mayhem has been a GREAT ice breaker for a lot of indie concepts for a lot of people I know (and not just because of me writing it). Most of my initial playtest crew consisted of people who live, eat, and breathe D&D/d20 and after an initial, occasionally jarring, couple minutes, most players jump right on.
System is pretty fast and loose - I, as well as any other player I've spoken with, have sat down with people totally unfamiliar with it (and sometimes totally unfamiliar with the concept of roleplaying), laid it out, and been mostly through character creation in under ten minutes.
System is totally open to the players, which can be the jarring part: GM sets up the initial scenarios, steps in only when absolutely needed, but otherwise players are free to narrate as they will or, in the case a roll to see if something can be done, narrate their own success or failure, gives players a real sense of control because they really have control.
Nice thing about this one, though, is no prep what so ever on anyones behalf. Even con demos, we come up with everything we're going to do at the table in under a couple of minutes. Its light and light hearted, so theres not a lot of pressure to be cool, just to roll with the flow and have a good time amusing everyone at the table.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 04, 2005, 04:12:04 AM
Hi Frank,

(NB: I am one of those freaks he referred to in his post)

Do You think You are able to answer the following questions:

"What do the girls want from the game, and what 'indie' concepts can be uses to achieve them?"

You know that they enjoy participative illusionism[1], but why? You probably know that they're not very
interested in large backgrounds or heaps of rules. This is most probably because of time constraints in addition to most game world knowledge being 'useless' outside.

This thread gave a lot of recommendations about games that are easy to handle (and if you want to try out Fate or TSoY with Fudge dice, I got a load of them I could borrow out to you).

I do understand the cop issue. Is it an unwritten rule, or was it a concious agreement by the group? I see that there is a potential for conflict, but if you are open and direct about it, you may just come through clean. If you leave out the TA in your towns for this group, the questioning of law and justice may not be as eminent in your games.

And then there is the other question:

"What's your goal in bringing the girls over to the nar world?"

Sometimes, people's tastes and personalities change. Maybe it's better to keep up the good friendship and do the gaming with other people. I know this is a hard step, but it might be safer than trying to force something into the relationship it's not built for.

Regards,
    Harald



[1] ha-ha, only serious


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 04, 2005, 05:54:55 AM
Hey Harald,

I have actually thought about using Dogs. Someone PM'ed me saying as much. Hey, maybe it's not that bad. If I spin the "supernatural" dial up real high, it's going to be fantastic enough not to be offensive to anyone. Um. Did I mention one of the other two girls has some serious issues against Christianity and Church? Well, well. To say it the Star Wars way: I have a bad feeling about this.

Now for that part on "what do they want from a game..."?

[rant]
Screw that. You read it all over the Forge, but if you look closely, you won't see Vincent or Ron or Mike or Ralph or Clinton tell anyone: "Find the one thing you want from RPG's in general". Cause that's just not the way things roll. My girls like Illusionism. Why? Cause I'm a fucking Illusionist badass, is why. When I prepare carefully and put all my effort into it, my games fucking rawk out. I know that old Illusionist Star Wars d6 like the back of my hand. It runs smoothly. It's a damn good show.

How did it come about? Because I brought it about. I forced it on the players. They liked it well enough. But they never chose it as that "one way" they would play. Cause they had no choice: This is the only way I showed them! And as I started to no longer do it that way, I did it without announcing it, without even conciously choosing to let it down. No wonder they didn't know how to react to that. No wonder play became dysfunctional. Does that mean that anything other than the way we used to play is wasted on them?

Hell no!! Of course not. I KNOW there's no point in forcing them to play "my way" if they don't like it. But only that they didn't respond immediately to my first clumsy attempts of changing our Creative Agenda doesn't mean that they're incompatible with anything else but Illusionism. Damn it, ALL of us would react that way if we had the same history as my girls. That means exactly NUTHIN.

Now, will the girls like forgy pervy Narrativism? I don't know. The only way I can find out is play it with them, and play it right. It's not that I'm trying to force something on them of which I already know they'll flat out reject it. I do believe there is a good chance of them liking it--once they understand how it works. See, you can play different styles and have fun with all of them.
[/rant]

Sorry Harald, I know you probably didn't mean it that way. This was just something I had to get out of the system, so please don't take it personally.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Halzebier on November 04, 2005, 06:58:53 AM
Hi Frank!

1. Your post almost perfectly mirrorrs the fears I've had before my first narrativist game with my 'trad' group. I used The Pool and'll second the recommendations in this thread: it can be learned in a minute and it does not put the players on the spot: They can just take a die and to heck with narrative power. They'll come around, though.

You can read about my actual play report here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16316.0
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16608.0

Side note: I prepped fairly extensively and benefitted from it. So The Pool is not necessarily a low-prep game.

2. If these are your friends, they'll give you some slack. They'll be sceptical, sure, but not outright hostile. Or so one should hope. Anyway, I think it will be a bit of a bumpy ride at worst, but even then, I don't see how they'd never give you a second chance.

3. I'll be frank: Scrap the plan of dramatically tearing sheets. It's condescending and builds high, but diffuse expectations. This is not helpful at all. Show, don't tell (i.e. just start playing).

Regards & Good Luck,

Hal


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on November 05, 2005, 12:30:43 AM
3. I'll be frank: Scrap the plan of dramatically tearing sheets. It's condescending and builds high, but diffuse expectations. This is not helpful at all. Show, don't tell (i.e. just start playing).

Seconded. Nothing new to add otherwise, but that's clearly a authority technique, which is pretty good if you're either trying to dominate people or are preparing yourself for a fall for some reason. But otherwise you'll just ensure that the session won't be "you and me exploring this new kind of play together", but instead "I'll show you how it's supposed to be done". The latter works awfully, because this kind of roleplaying requires people to invest themselves, and nobody invests themselves AND acts as a pupil at the same time. Your main priority should be that before the end of the first session all players will be giving out independent contribution in the game, and that won't happen if they're afraid of going against your dogma.

If you feel that you have to remind the players of these theoretical matters before you start playing, write them down and pin the sheet on a wall nearby. That way you can just gently point at the sheet when you feel the need during the game. Generally, though, I myself go for sermonizing during the game: whenever a player acts in a way that's counter to the purpose of the game, take it up right away and explain why that won't work. This way players get concrete instruction instead of dogmatic authority.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 05, 2005, 04:20:57 PM
Hey Frank,

no offence taken, really. Nice rant. But let me play devil's advocate for a bit longer. It's good if it flushes some bad feelings out of Your system. I'll come up with something....on sunday night, probably.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 05, 2005, 04:27:47 PM
Oh, just in case You have missed it.This thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17519.0 might have some useful advice.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Callan S. on November 05, 2005, 08:17:35 PM
Hi Frank,

You've got two gamist inclined players, but you want the players to give more input?

Have you discussed with them what everyone wants to do? For example, have you seriously considered during any discussion with them, taking on their agenda and entering into gamist sessions of play, even if that's not quite your cup of tea?

If you haven't and they just sort of follow your lead as to how to play, they wont be doing any game input - play started with them following your lead and it will continue that way in terms of game input.

If they don't choose what agenda they play in IMO they wont be making any in game choices/input either. It's a flow on effect.

However, how much choice they have about the agenda hinges on how seriously you could accept something like a gamist session. If you couldn't accept that idea at all, they have no choice except to play your way (or don't play with you at all).


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Halzebier on November 06, 2005, 12:57:20 AM
Hey Callan,

I'm not sure if I'm reading you correctly, but your advice to discuss agenda - if that's what you're suggesting - strikes me as somewhat problematic.

1. Talking about agenda is rarely useful with people who don't know the theory. Moreover, such people often (a) can't identify or articulate what they want (at least not in theoretical terms) and (b) don't easily accept the idea that agendas can conflict with each other.

(The latter is especially relevant with people who are used to illusionism which, among other things, can give the illusion that your choices matter to the story and your choices and luck decide the outcome of fights and everything flows naturally from the world.)

2. All three agendas which have been identified are fun. It's a human thing. You may prefer one over the other, especially in the long run, but a well-designed and well-run game pursuing any of them is still fun. It may not be the kind of fun which will keep you coming back for more, but you'll have had a good time nonetheless.

(For example, I'm not keen on board games. Yet, if social circumstances conspire and I end up playing one, I usually have a pretty good time (provided it's well designed). Board games do not provide the kind of fun I'm actively seeking or would choose to spend my precious free time on, but I could do far worse for an evening's entertainment.)

So I think it is best to just choose a well-designed game and suggest playing it (rather than discuss preferences - that can wait until one plans repeat sessions or a campaign).

Regards,

Hal


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 06, 2005, 05:26:26 AM
Hey Callan,

Please refer to my above rant for my opion on "the way they want to play". I don't "have Gamists in the group". I have some players who, for lack of a clear Agenda supported by the whole group and the System, try to Step On Up more often than they do other stuff. And yes, I have tried to respond to the Stepping On Up tendecies. Actually, it's what I'm doing at the moment. Also,

[rant]
it's not that I previously GM'ed 100% Sim. It's not like a fucking ball game, where tonight we play football, and on Wednesday it's volleyball. It's not like a little switch in your head that goes from Sim to Gam.

There was always some Challenge and some tendency toward Stepping On Up in my group. It wasn't enforced by my GM'ing at big scale because I railroaded, but it was present at a smaller scale, as in "how many TIE's do we manage to blow before the reinforcement arrives 'just in time'? How much of a hard time can we give the Impies before they manage to capture us?"

The point is, I've run out of Challenge for Star Wars d6. I feel there is virtually nothing new there. The players just pick one of their standard tactical patterns and roll some dice. It's dull. There never was a coherent Gamist Creative Agenda anyway in the group, and I doubt it'll arrive (unless, of course, I bring it about, but that was the thing you objected to in the first place, wasn't it?)

It's a nice idea that every fucking roleplayer on this planet could instantly and without fail answer the question "hey, watcha want outa roleplaying?" But people are not that predictable. And unfortunately, "what do I like" is not always something conscious. You know, I've been through this. I wrote up a fucking mutliple choice test to determine what they want out of roleplaying. There was NO recognizable pattern whatsoever in the answers, let alone a SHARED pattern. They told me that if we'd fo the test again on a different day, the answers would probably vary considerably.

There is no such thing as "THEIR WAY" of playing which I could play along with. The only functional and mostly coherent way of playing they know is the one I forced them into, all those years ago. And now as I try to do this trick again, there's sure some people to jump up who've read too much theory lately, and they're gonna refer me to Dogma No. 3 which says that it always be Badwrongfun to make other people play your way.
[/rant]

Which is really only to say, yes, I have considered following their lead, but it doesn't really lead anywhere. Also, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to give creative input only because I take a lead. Now if I want to do some improvised Blues and play the guitar, and you sing to it, would you say you give no input just because it's not Jazz? And only because you like Jazz, why shouldn't you like Blues as well? This line of argument doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Hey Hal and Eero,

That's some sound advice there, thank you. Alright, so no dramatically tearing sheets apart. But I will tell them that there won't be "the right solution", which is just explicitly announcing that I'm going to change the way I GM.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 06, 2005, 10:05:48 AM
Frank,

I think you're searching for the One True Way(TM) to hook your old group on your newfound, let's call it 'refined' way of gaming.
As in the other threads, "Show, Don't Tell".

This is how I'd do it. I'd tell the group "Next time, we won't continue our ongoing gaming, but we'll have something like an interruption." I'd tell them at the end of a normal session. I wouldn't indulge them with the fine details of theory, since they obviously weren't inclined to think about their gaming that way before.

Then, there are two ways of going on, according to my book: Either you present an underrated part of the game world you all know with a new system (as a lame example, use Primetime Adventures to cast a show that is a documentary about life on a star destroyer). This has the advantage that the group is accustomed to the color of the game world, but bears the dangers of people falling back into their usual gaming habits because of that clinging familiarity.

Or, You go the whole way, giving your group the complete package. A highly structured game like My Life with Master, Dogs in the Vineyard, possibly The Mountain Witch, is probably the best choice, because it's very clear what the game's agenda is. This can help the players accept the 'new agenda' as something that is part of the game, not something you want to force on them because you've played with too many freaks and now have become one yourself.

Apart from that, you probably know exactly what you don't want, so please try to read some sense into what feeble amounts of people who are not you and don't know the group in question. I still love the rants.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Callan S. on November 06, 2005, 10:55:07 PM
Hi Frank,

Quote
I have some players who, for lack of a clear Agenda supported by the whole group and the System, try to Step On Up more often than they do other stuff. And yes, I have tried to respond to the Stepping On Up tendecies.
Okay, that wording is a real worry. Imagine you play a nar game but latter overheard another player saying 'I tried to respond to these dramatic tendencies he has'. Do you imagine they were really interested in your address of premise?

If their is no gamist cohesion in the group, it may well be because your part of that group and really don't have any interest in supporting it. That's why the gamism doesn't go anywhere for you to follow.

Quote
And now as I try to do this trick again, there's sure some people to jump up who've read too much theory lately, and they're gonna refer me to Dogma No. 3 which says that it always be Badwrongfun to make other people play your way.
Anyone who says that is a jerk. However, your not going to get the player input you said you wanted. Of course you don't need player input to have a fun night.

Quote
Which is really only to say, yes, I have considered following their lead, but it doesn't really lead anywhere. Also, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to give creative input only because I take a lead. Now if I want to do some improvised Blues and play the guitar, and you sing to it, would you say you give no input just because it's not Jazz?
But are they going to sing, or give you further teflon coated characters? There's no physical reason they can't give input. However, giving input means taking the lead on what happens next...would that mean taking the lead away from you? The person who's showing them how to do this thing?

Provocative questions, I'm sure.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 07, 2005, 12:38:54 AM
Hey Callan,

Right, some none-ranty answers to some serious questions.

I didn't mean "Gamist tendencies" to have a negative connotation. Written communication is tricky, isn't it? I actually enjoy some good High Exploration Gamist play every now and then. Only it's losing its edge on me pretty quickly, and, as I mentioned, I've run out of Challenge for Star Wars d6 long ago.

As for getting them to sing, there is a problem. Eero had a good point about the tearing sheets apart. It'd be great if I could make that game a "we check out this new game" instead of "I show you this new game". Of course, given the circumstances, it's not very likely that they won't look to me for guidance. And maybe you're right and I won't get any input from them at all. That remains to be seen. What I'm trying to figure out right now is the best approach to open them up for playing this game without presumptions, without falling back into old habits.

Sadly, I'm probably the reason for their lack of input so far. I set up this expectation of "don't mess with my plot". I am probably bullying them with my extensive RPG experience and knowledge. Also, I think Andrew's words about player narration are very true. They have this "stage fright" because of me.

You know, probably if I handed them a copy of PtA to play on their own, and one of them took the time to read through it and explain it to the others, they'd come up with cool stuff and have tons of fun. Only my presence at the table makes things complicated. *sigh*

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 08, 2005, 05:16:26 AM
Frank,

maybe You could use a guest GM? Someone who introduces the Nar stuff while You are "on your groups' side", so to speak? It would add up some of the benefits: The group would try out a new game, You'd not be the guiding leader as before. On the other hand, there'd be a GM You don't know as well as yourself, and who doesn't know the group as well. But this might work out as an advantage, because he is not in lock-step with the expectations of the players. You could try to get them to a convention (possibly hard) or invite some of the freaks You know.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on November 08, 2005, 10:48:09 AM
Hey Harald,

Is that an offer? :-)

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on November 08, 2005, 02:36:41 PM
Frank,
if you think my proposal would work, I would volunteer. We could even conspire and create the perfect session. Illusionist narrativistic double plotting.....

In short: yes.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Callan S. on November 08, 2005, 07:20:58 PM
That was a gutsy post, Frank, to air those sort of conclusions of yours. :)

In terms of gamist tendencies, I didn't think you meant it in a negative. However, I did think it lacked any sense of 'Eyes bright, sitting forward' for gamism. I understand running out of challenges for star wars though. However, your players are giving you characters that are teflon coated at a personality level, right? Could you ask for dangerous situations from the players, that their PC might be in? Problematic situation rather than problematic personal life.

Quote
It'd be great if I could make that game a "we check out this new game" instead of "I show you this new game".
It'd be great if it could be something like them reading the book then telling you how it all works, with you previously ignorant of that. Knowledge is power and it may be a good step to protagonising the players and making them feel they are in command. It'll also demonstrate that your not going to kick up a fuss about that.

You could get something like that if you prompted them to make a bunch of houserules for a game you already play. Assuming you GM (it'd be preferable if they did), they can still tell you as GM how those house rules work. I'd really recommend that they don't hand over the list of house rules to you...it's intimidating to just air them to the scrutiny of the GM. Tell them just to write some up and tell you as GM when they come into effect. That'll probably feel pretty wierd to you (it would to me as GM), but it'll shake up the traditional power distribution system you all have. That wierd feeling is part of that shakeup.


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: Frank T on December 05, 2005, 12:51:58 PM
Hi everyone,

I know this thread is a little old to post to it. Please bear with me. I just want to bring it to a proper close and thank everybody that contributed. Two weeks ago, I had a chance to talk to the two girls that are not cops. I explained to them what DitV is, what I like about it, and what I fear could happen if we run it in our group.

Something clicked, especially with the girl that is really anti-church. It was when I said: "See, your character believes in different things then yourself, but the game is still all about what you believe is right." And something lit in her eye, as if she was surprised this actually sounded fun.

Both the girls agreed we could be bound for trouble with our two cops. But then they said: "Whatever, let's give it a try." And that was that. I think I will spin the supernatural dial up high, that might help to stay clear of shallow waters. But Dogs it is. I'll report back when we've played.

- Frank


Title: Re: Old group, new Creative Agenda?
Post by: oliof on December 07, 2005, 01:25:00 PM
I am very interested in the outcome. Maybe you should have the girls talk to the two cops. If they don't like the premise, do it with the girls only as a portal to other games. I think I wrote it somewhere else - one of the most avid fans of the setting at my convention game was someone who thought he'd be playing something like Deadlands!