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Author Topic: Abuse of the need to have fun  (Read 13249 times)
Marco
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« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2004, 03:45:10 AM »

Quote from: jdagna

By the way, have you tried explaining the problem to your GM?  You mention the players' objections and the GM's defense (of realism), but have you discussed it on a player level?  It sounds like most of the discussion has been at an in-game level (like Marco's discussion of cart-guarding and game economics) not at a player-level (like the conversation Clehrich modeled out).  It's my experience that game-level discussion of social contract problems never results in a functional solution.


Hi,

It's an easy mistake to make that what I'm talking about is purely at an in-game solution. It's not.

What I'm saying is that the discussion is about the power-level of the PC's relative to their opposition--I'm telling him that his world as described with objectives as the (the GM) has laid them out don't mesh--and that therefore it's not fun for the players.

A more extreme example is that you make a 1st level character and I run you against Godzilla. You won't have an "in-game" discussion--the discussion will be meta-game ("That's a 50th level monster! What's wrong with you?")

But with the GM's set up things are far more sublte and his paradigm ("what do you expect!? Leaving an empty cart in the woods!?") is both reasonable and (more importantly) shared by the player(s).

That's important: Raven is talking about changing the paradigm on the part of, possibly, both parties. That is, the player says "Hey! I can have a good time out of the dungeon" and the GM says "Hey! I can ensure that you have an interesting time even if you stay with the cart!"

That's a wonderful solution.

But it isn't any more in-game than "Dude, if I'm going to fight Godzilla all the time I need to be 50th level."

It's just a matter of how you *illuminate* the point that the GM is running the characters in an under-powered fashion. To do that without appealing to printed mechanics (the CR of Godzilla--the equivalent of which you don't have here), you examine the implicit economy of the world and what behavior it would drive as presented (the players become cart-thieves).

-Marco
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Precious Villain
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« Reply #16 on: September 28, 2004, 09:12:33 AM »

Unless the Social Contract of this group is totally gone and fucked the solution to this problem should start with one fairly simple step.

1.  Tell the GM "I'm not having fun."

If he takes his responsibilities as a GM seriously, and understands the role of the GM as running a game which is played for recreation, then he'll work with you to find an agreeable solution.

I know if one of my players full out said that he wasn't having fun I'd bend over backwards to solve the problem.  Now maybe my solution would ultimately have to be asking the fellow to play elsewhere because I can't run the kind of game he'd enjoy, but that's an absolute last resort and I've never yet had to go there.

I don't think it's wise or productive to argue the metagame issues or even in game issues first.  That's putting the cart (ahem) before the horse in my opinion.  Talking about how his world isn't fitting in to high fantasy conventions is just a fancy way of stating that he's running the game badly.  Talking about how cart thieves and mansion builders wouldn't realistically behave this way or that way is challenging his abilities as a GM directly.  If the first thing you do is criticize his GM style then his first response is to be defensive.  Saying that you aren't enjoying yourself is neutral and allows the GM to save face because he can look at it as you not understanding his world/GMing style/the Social Contract well enough.  More importantly, by saying you aren't having fun you are making a statement of fact that he cannot reasonably challenge on any level.  That's because he's not a mind reader and it's not socially acceptable for one person to decide what's fun for someone else without that person's consent.

In short.  Address this on the level of your feelings as a player first.  Then go where the discussion takes you.
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jdagna
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« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2004, 01:19:49 PM »

Quote from: Marco
Quote from: jdagna

By the way, have you tried explaining the problem to your GM?  You mention the players' objections and the GM's defense (of realism), but have you discussed it on a player level?  It sounds like most of the discussion has been at an in-game level (like Marco's discussion of cart-guarding and game economics) not at a player-level (like the conversation Clehrich modeled out).  It's my experience that game-level discussion of social contract problems never results in a functional solution.


Hi,

It's an easy mistake to make that what I'm talking about is purely at an in-game solution. It's not.

What I'm saying is that the discussion is about the power-level of the PC's relative to their opposition--I'm telling him that his world as described with objectives as the (the GM) has laid them out don't mesh--and that therefore it's not fun for the players.


Well... the key phrase in your argument I highlighted in bold.  That is a player-level concern - "We're not having fun" or "This game isn't fitting our expectations for it."

The game economics, power-balancing, etc. are all fluff.  They all skirt the core issue and never have to lead to the "therefore..." part of the argument.  They don't even strengthen the point made by the "therefore..."

For example: If a player insists that he's not strong enough to defeat Godzilla, a GM can easily respond "Well, it's realistic that there are thing out there you can't beat," or he can say "Well, you need to out-think Godzilla then," or he can say "Perhaps the mission isn't about beating Godzilla, it's about getting something done before he stomps you."  All of these responses are valid game-level responses.  Some games (Call of Cthulhu for example), specifically encourage these kinds of imbalances in power.  More importantly, none of them address the fact that the players aren't having fun.

Likewise with the arguments about in-game economics.  My answer as a GM would be "Well, most of the population isn't out adventuring.  Maybe that's because adventuring isn't really that profitable.  In the real world, most small businesses fail, but people keep trying anyway."  This is a basically invincible argument - you can't defeat it with any kind of game-level logic.  It also fails to address the issue of fun.

However, if a player starts off with "I'm not having fun" you can't use any of those arguments as responses (at least, you can't without implicitly saying "It doesn't matter if you have fun").
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greyorm
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« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2004, 01:54:57 PM »

Let's all pause a moment and wait for Hypz to let us know if any of this is helping him out. Hypz? Any reactions or thoughts? Have you tried any of the suggestions? What happened?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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hyphz
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2004, 04:32:54 AM »

Quote from: greyorm
Let's all pause a moment and wait for Hypz to let us know if any of this is helping him out. Hypz? Any reactions or thoughts? Have you tried any of the suggestions? What happened?


Hiya,

I've been reading with interest and I thank everyone greatly for replying here.

Although I have mentioned it to the DM before, I haven't been able to explain it as well as some prior posters on this thread, so I may ask again.  

However, many people are assuming that it's an issue with the relative power level of the characters, which isn't quite the case.  The characters in the game are very high-powered and can normally defeat the monsters even when they do use tactics.

The issue is more an in-character one; I certainly find my character feeling impotent within the world when they are forced into this sort of thing.  An example that happened a long while back was with a witch who created a bunch of illusory stepping-stones across a river.  We walked over them, we fell in and got attacked by some relatively wussy pirahna-type creatures and she walked away laughing.  There was no power level problem, but all of our characters were still humiliated, even though we'd had no real choice but to cross.  

The current example with the mansion is even worse, as it appears that the NPC thief is doing all the things that our previous thief PCs have wanted to be able to do - but been unable to do so, because you can't do that sort of thing if it's always you who has to go after the other guy rather than the other way around.  

You can't set traps for people if it's you pursuing them.  You can't spook people's horses to make them panic if they don't give a damn about being there in the first place.  You can't carefully select positions to spy from if you're going into unexplored areas where you don't know what positions are available - and by the time the area's explored, everything in it will be dead.

Of course the problem with this is that if you could do it, then you'd have an entire game where the PCs were just hanging around in an enclosed area watching NPCs fall into traps, assuming they were panicking, and watching them do stuff.  And then when they left, you'd have to... umm, sit and wait for the next group to arrive and do it again.  Which would suck, especially for everyone other than the thief.  I actually have at least a decent feeling that this stuff can't be done by PCs in RPGs at all without breaking the game.
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beingfrank
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2004, 05:21:20 AM »

I'm following this thread with interest because I have a similar, but much less severe, problem when I play D&D but in the opposite direction.

I didn't read what people were saying as anyone suggesting it's an issue of relative power levels, but of a more basic problem.  Which could manifest as a problem with relative power levels, but doesn't have to.  Rather it's an issue of different rules.  The players are following one set of rules, about what they should and shouldn't do, and the GM is following another.  The players feel impotent because their options are being limited by the GM following a different standard of behaviour.  The players follow genre, they get hosed, or get niggled at by lots of little things that they feel don't fit, and they don't get to do some of the cool things they'd like to because they're sticking with the rules that the GM keeps breaking (from their perspective).  I've no idea what your GM thinks is happening, maybe he thinks it's all hunky dory, maybe he doesn't know what's going wrong, maybe he likes messing with other people's fun?  But the basic issue is that you're not on the same page.  You want something different from what he's doing.  And maybe he wants something different from you?

In my case, I'm playing D&D with very little familiarity with the expected standards of behaviour in D&D.  I don't know what the done thing is.  My character has a tendency to do all the paranoid things like guarding the cart and refusing point blank to go into the dungeon when he thinks it's too dangerous.  In our game, it works, because the GM knew in advance I was going to do this, we'd discussed it together, and she's getting a real kick out of the fact that the party has a very unique approach to things, mainly as a result of me encountering them for the first time.  In this case, I'm not on the normal page for D&D, but we've reached a compromise so we're on the same page, made it work and are all having a great time.

There's many people who've posted excellent advice to this thread, who understand the issues a lot better that I currently do.  They've got good reasons for the questions they ask and the answers will help them give even better advice, even if it seems like dreadful hard work.  But I just wanted to say how interesting I've found it so far, and that I'm in a game that could be having very similar problems caused largely by me, but isn't because we've communicated in exactly the style suggested in this thread.
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DannyK
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« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2004, 06:32:09 AM »

Hmm... in some games, the thief's player could talk out-of-game and say that he'd really like a session where the party gets to set up an ambush for somebody else, maybe some other adventurers or some bounty hunters.  That doesn't sound like it's in the cards in this game, though.  

The story about the witch and the illusory stepping stones makes me wonder about your GM -- does he just enjoy watching the PC's stumble?
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hyphz
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« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2004, 06:35:54 AM »

Quote from: DannyK

The story about the witch and the illusory stepping stones makes me wonder about your GM -- does he just enjoy watching the PC's stumble?


Most of the time, he's running preset modules, so the content doesn't really say anything about what he wants (or what we want).

I forget why the witch was there - that game was years ago.  I can't remember if it even was a witch or some random nature-sprite-fairy-type-thing (technical term) thrown in for colour.
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Kerstin Schmidt
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« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2004, 06:43:33 AM »

Quote from: hyphz
Although I have mentioned it to the DM before, I haven't been able to explain it as well as some prior posters on this thread, so I may ask again.


If you wish you might point your GM to this thread.

It sounds like there may be a number of problems you've having, not just one. I'd like to be able to give more specific advice, maybe you could clarify your examples for me?

Quote
The issue is more an in-character one; I certainly find my character feeling impotent within the world when they are forced into this sort of thing.  An example that happened a long while back was with a witch who created a bunch of illusory stepping-stones across a river.  We walked over them, we fell in and got attacked by some relatively wussy pirahna-type creatures and she walked away laughing.  There was no power level problem, but all of our characters were still humiliated, even though we'd had no real choice but to cross.


Does this kind of thing happen a lot? Does it frustrate you every time? What about the other players? What about the GM, does he seem to enjoy sending PCs into ridicule-traps like this one?

Also, why didn't a single PC notice the stones weren't real? How could you all have got on illusory stones and fallen in? If the stones were illusions, wouldn't the first PC have taken a plunge and be fished out by the other PCs who naturally wouldn't step on the stones after that?

Quote
The current example with the mansion is even worse, as it appears that the NPC thief is doing all the things that our previous thief PCs have wanted to be able to do - but been unable to do so, because you can't do that sort of thing if it's always you who has to go after the other guy rather than the other way around.  


Hm ok. I can accept that you say your PCs can't do these things in your game, obviously players have tried. I don't understand the reason you're giving though, see below.

Quote
You can't set traps for people if it's you pursuing them.  


Why not? All it takes is to find out where your enemies are headed and get there first to set an ambush / manipulate NPCs at the enemies' destination etc.

Quote
You can't spook people's horses to make them panic if they don't give a damn about being there in the first place.


Who doesn't give a damn about being there? The NPCs or the horses? Or the NPCs about the horses being there?

Quote
You can't carefully select positions to spy from if you're going into unexplored areas where you don't know what positions are available - and by the time the area's explored, everything in it will be dead.


Er, so your way of exploring areas is to barge in and kill everything that moves?  Don't you guys have scouts? Or does the GM hose everybody who tries to scout, so you prefer to go in without scouting?

Quote
Of course the problem with this is that if you could do it, then you'd have an entire game where the PCs were just hanging around in an enclosed area watching NPCs fall into traps, assuming they were panicking, and watching them do stuff.  And then when they left, you'd have to... umm, sit and wait for the next group to arrive and do it again.  Which would suck, especially for everyone other than the thief.  I actually have at least a decent feeling that this stuff can't be done by PCs in RPGs at all without breaking the game.


I'm not sure what you mean here.  Of course you can play a "reverse dungeon" game in which PCs set up, guard and defend a location against all comers. It can be done and has been done, it can be fun with the right group of players and a party of characters designed for this sort of game. (The classic Adventuring Four aren't necessarily the best party to have fun in this kind of game.)

But a reverse dungeon game isn't the only way.  There are lots of ways for a GM, and some ways for players, to reverse the situation occasionally and get people coming after the PCs instead of the other way round.

For one thing, if your PCs are smart and fast enough, they will sometimes be able to anticipate people they're after and set an ambush ahead of them, as I've said above.

For another, there are tons of scenarios that involve PCs guarding/defending a location, property or a person against an enemy, none of them very exotic or unusual: caravan guarding, bodyguarding, investigating and foiling assassination plans...  Once the PCs have gained a bit of a reputation and have enemies, someone might send an assassin after them, etc.

Are any of the examples I'm listing here things you'd like to be able to do in your game, or am I on the wrong track?
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Kerstin Schmidt
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« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2004, 06:49:32 AM »

Quote from: hyphz
Most of the time, he's running preset modules, so the content doesn't really say anything about what he wants (or what we want).


Even when you run prewritten scenarios, surely you can make adjustments to enhance your fun and that of your players? Do you think you as players can talk to your GM about style at all?  If he's a GM who always follows scenarios written by other people to the letter and isn't prepared to move an inch, maybe he lacks the confidence to try something that might be more fun. Or maybe he's just set in his tracks and won't budge just because.

Can you tell what the GM enjoys in running games for you? That might help us give more useful advice.

Quote
I forget why the witch was there - that game was years ago.  I can't remember if it even was a witch or some random nature-sprite-fairy-type-thing (technical term) thrown in for colour.


It was years ago and you don't even remember the context?  Man, must that experience of being made fun of by an NPC have rankled, to stay in your mind like that.
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hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2004, 07:01:18 AM »

Quote from: StalkingBlue
Does this kind of thing happen a lot? Does it frustrate you every time? What about the other players? What about the GM, does he seem to enjoy sending PCs into ridicule-traps like this one?


No, it doesn't happen very often.  

Quote

Also, why didn't a single PC notice the stones weren't real? How could you all have got on illusory stones and fallen in? If the stones were illusions, wouldn't the first PC have taken a plunge and be fished out by the other PCs who naturally wouldn't step on the stones after that?


I think it was something like the third stone along was illusionary, and nobody suspected anything (or wanted to spend a spell)

Quote
Why not? All it takes is to find out where your enemies are headed and get there first to set an ambush / manipulate NPCs at the enemies' destination etc.


If you are pursuing them then by definition you can't "get there first".  In our case it's usually because we don't know where they're going and following them is the only way to find out.  

Quote
Who doesn't give a damn about being there? The NPCs or the horses? Or the NPCs about the horses being there?


The NPCs don't give a damn about being there.  Hey, the PCs are just a bunch of pests who're trying to stop their evil plans - if the PCs are going to try and do that, they have to go to the NPCs; and if the PCs don't go to the NPCs, the evil plan can continue without problem, so why worry about them?

Quote
Er, so your way of exploring areas is to barge in and kill everything that moves?  Don't you guys have scouts? Or does the GM hose everybody who tries to scout, so you prefer to go in without scouting?


We've never bothered scouting as it doesn't actually gain anything.  Usually there is only one entrance to a contested area, so it's not like we can avoid arriving where they want us to, and since our DM pretty much allows people to spend unlimited time talking to each other before deciding actions for a round (ok, unrealistic, but avoids any messy interventions), there's no planning we could do with the scouted information that we couldn't do based on what we see when we enter.

Quote
I'm not sure what you mean here.  Of course you can play a "reverse dungeon" game in which PCs set up, guard and defend a location against all comers. It can be done and has been done, it can be fun with the right group of players and a party of characters designed for this sort of game.


Sure.  But this is getting to the stage where they're doing it as a gimmick.  The NPCs seem to get to do this because they're actually doing something important and we need to stop them.

Quote
For one thing, if your PCs are smart and fast enough, they will sometimes be able to anticipate people they're after and set an ambush ahead of them, as I've said above.


Even if we anticipate them there isn't really much of a way to "go faster" than another group in D&D.  It basically goes a) good horses with haste on them; b) teleport.  Teleport would need us to already have been there, which is almost never the case.  And just about anyone can get a decent horse, including the bad guys.

Quote

For another, there are tons of scenarios that involve PCs guarding/defending a location, property or a person against an enemy, none of them very exotic or unusual: caravan guarding, bodyguarding, investigating and foiling assassination plans...


Both "caravan guarding" and "body guarding" force the PCs to be on the move, and thus wipe out any benefit they could gain from set-up situations.  They are also railroading of the worst kind.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2004, 07:15:12 AM »

Okay, now I'm intrigued.  How is caravan guarding automatically railroading?

A caravan is just a mobile home base.  Do you think that having a home, caring about it and defending it against external threats is automatically railroading?
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Precious Villain
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« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2004, 07:22:03 AM »

Hyphz, do you have these same issues when other people you know run D&D?  Is it just this gamemaster?
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My real name is Robert.
hyphz
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Posts: 157


« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2004, 07:23:46 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Okay, now I'm intrigued.  How is caravan guarding automatically railroading?

A caravan is just a mobile home base.  Do you think that having a home, caring about it and defending it against external threats is automatically railroading?


Ok, caravan guarding isn't automatically railroading.

But the original post referred to "a caravan guarding scenario" which are usually dull as dishwater: the caravan is going from point A to point B, which are not chosen by the PCs are usually nothing to do with anything in particular, and you have to go with it.  So you basically just get a series of totally unrelated combats.  Ugh.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2004, 07:59:10 AM »

Let me be clear on what I'm saying and what I'm not.  Your GM sounds like a real piece of work, enjoying being able to pick at the players weaknesses for no real purpose other than to establish dominance.  I don't think real highly of that.  

At the same time... When guarding a caravan you know the terrain through which you'll be pasing.  You have ample opportunity to send scouts ahead and gather important intelligence.  You have a home base (albeit mobile) that you can trick out with traps and defenses.  Any villains that want to accost you must then come to you, and fight on your ground, on your terms.

This sounds, to me, like exactly the sort of player control that you say you want.  If you've gotten it in the past and scorned it as being "dull as dishwater" then what do you expect your GM to do?  Keep giving you the thing you ask for, but don't enjoy?

I think both sides here may need to put in some effort to create a new style of play.  It is a great burden on the players to make such a situation interesting by their choices.  But that burden is always going to go along with the power to make the choices you're asking for, isn't it?
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