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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Rage of the broken ouija board, misery of the slow thinker  (Read 6326 times)
hyphz
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« on: October 10, 2005, 08:36:00 AM »

Interesting revelation took place recently.

One of the players in our group, we noticed, became intensely angry if ever his character was tricked.  He'd always try to hunt down the NPC that did it (no PC ever did) and kill them - often going to the extent of scaring players by giving brutal description of what he was going to do to them.  If he couldn't hunt them down, he'd moan at the GM, although usually not for very long.

A conversation turned out why.  Turns out that he's been ouija-boarding (as per Ron's essay) to play a tricksy character himself for several years.  Yes, I said years.  Across systems, games, and groups - but he'd usually only try it once with a particular group, and if the system or game didn't support it (which most of them didn't, being D&D-type fixed path campaigns with limited options), he'd essentially forget it for the moment and play other characters (even playing them quite well, and apparantly still enjoying it) to "wait out" a change in game or system.  And even then, he wouldn't try to play it right away, to avoid making himself a "one character type only" player.  ("It's not the only thing I want to play, it's just something that I do want to play and never get to, so of course I get annoyed when someone else does.")

Problem is, most of the suggestions made about how this could be worked into a campaign were then rejected (and neatly managing to object with both "you'll just set up situations for me, so it's you doing everything instead of me" and "i can't really think of things that fast, so you shouldn't require me to spot opportunities" within the space of 3 minutes)

Anyone have any idea what can be done for this sort of thing?  How to make a deliberate action to bring something into the game while at the same time making the IC action appear spontaneous?
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DevP
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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2005, 12:17:59 PM »

It is hard to come up with a way to help the *player* actually be a fast-thinking trickster, but what if there was the possibility of retconning a trick in there? This still requires some fast thinking still, but with a bit more leniency to a slow thinker. If they can retroactively come up with something clever near the end of the scene, they can still win out on the whole deal. There is still a good deal of player skill in coming up with good retcons, IMHO.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2005, 02:10:02 PM »

Cooperation is the key. If you'll look at fiction of any kind with an objective eye, you'll soon see that trickster characters of fiction are a product of crafted opportunity and gullible targets. Actually, the trickster story is generally considered even better with really exceptional situations and overly gullible targets. The one-upmanship "duel stories" about two competent parties outwitting each other are not properly trickster stories at all, so don't confuse yourself with them; any classical trickster actually works on the theme of "see how vainglorious and foolish people can be". I refer you to "The Emperor's New Clothes", the Anderssen fairy tale, for an example of typical trickster action. Do the secondary characters do anything at all to catch the trickster? Is the king perceptive, are the tricksters really in any danger? Do the tricksters need some special skills an average roleplayer is incapable of? Answer is a definite no. Those swindlers in the story live in a world where the royalty are idiots, the officials dishonest and aristocracy gullible.

What this means for roleplaying is that if you want that touch of a trickster smarter than the rest of the world, doing daring cons with good humour, the way to get that is to let the NPCs always fall to the simplest con, as long as it's funny. Might be that they'll figure it out later, but it'll happen at the minute the trickster is already in the virgin's bed or running off with the gold. So the trick is not to simulate a super-genius, but to make everybody else even dumber.

To get this effect reliably, switch to conflict resolution mechanics. A hefty "Tricking people" skill score or whatever, "Goal: get him to believe my con" and some inventive narration will do the trick, and remove the whole concept of "I have to figure whether this NPC would believe that yarn." from the picture. As long as the player can figure out something even half-believable ("Why should you give me the fare, good sir... uh... you see, this here goose of mine, it lays golden eggs...") the game will roll merrily along, the player gets to be the trickster, and there's no problems at all.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2005, 06:18:32 PM »

Yes, Fortune-in-the-Middle all the way: "I'll trick him!" "Roll for it!" "Aha, I succeed!" "Okay, let's figure out what that means, if need be retconning new facts into existence."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2005, 06:32:45 PM »

Problem is, most of the suggestions made about how this could be worked into a campaign were then rejected (and neatly managing to object with both "you'll just set up situations for me, so it's you doing everything instead of me" and "i can't really think of things that fast, so you shouldn't require me to spot opportunities" within the space of 3 minutes)

Anyone have any idea what can be done for this sort of thing?  How to make a deliberate action to bring something into the game while at the same time making the IC action appear spontaneous?
I'm going to work off the assumption he wants to 'pull off a scam' in a gamist manner, even though the account doesn't give much evidence in any direction. But clearly he doesn't just want to set up props so as to act out a scam. I'm assuming that's because it's as attractive as acting out a basketball game. It's just lame.

I'd say conflict resolution is pretty close to that problem as well...it's just a roll that, if it passes, gives permission to the player to say anything he likes. While you can address challenge through this technique, it can simply feel like an opportunity to write a script about pulling off a scam, rather than actually pulling a scam off.

I'd recommend some genuine head to head competitive mini game to determine if he can pull off a scam on an NPC, rather than more sim like 'lets all co-operate and pretend there was competition'. Perhaps some cards or such, so the resources are unknown. And the GM is heavily handicapped, with the player having more resources/cards/whatever. He does want a fight...doesn't mean he wants a fair one!
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Philosopher Gamer
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hyphz
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2005, 08:20:30 AM »

'lets all co-operate and pretend there was competition'

I'm isolating that phrase because it hits the nail on the head of the objection that just about everyone in the group - not just the player mentioned - comes up with whenever ANY sort of non-gamist or differently-gamist game system is suggested.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2005, 08:47:18 AM »

Hiya,

Gary, do you think this is a case like the following?

I want to be able to slam-dunk. I want to be able to slam-dunk really, really well, whenever I get the chance. But half the time, you guys don't give me any chance at all, which pisses me off. And the other half of the time, when you do give me the chance, I either don't get moving fast enough or I can't jump high enough or I drop the ball. Which also pisses me off, and it's not fair.

If that matches up, then I gotta say, I think the guy's dug himself a really deep hole, crawled into it, and pulled it in after him. Pretty hard to work constructively with someone who's done that.

Best,
Ron
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2005, 08:58:46 AM »

Ron may be right (about the darker and self-defeating side of human nature, he usually is...) but there may be a way in which the traditional RPG structure really screws this guy. Let me explain:

If the player really wants to be clever and tricky himself (albeit manifested through the character) rather than simply play a clever and tricky character, that's a very tough nut to crack -- especially if you have the traditional GM who at the same time knows the player-characters intimately and yet is also roleplaying the opposition: If the player tricks an NPC, he'll feel the all-knowing GM took a dive and he-the-player didn't really trick anyone (i.e. "you'll just set up situations for me, so it's you doing everything instead of me"); if the player fails to trick the NPC, he'll feel the all-knowing GM had an impossible advantage.

Besides the obvious solution of limiting the GM's knowledge of what's going on, or of having someone else who's relatively ignorant play the potential victim of the scam (both of which are logistically hard to implement, under any game system -- where do you find people to game with that you don't ever game with?), another option comes to mind. You could shift the terms of judgment from "you, the real person, successfully tricked me, the real person sitting across the table" to "you, the real person, came up with a scam so clever and cool and maybe laugh-out-loud funny that, like the audience in a good heist movie, I think the scam deserves to succeed." This has the added potential advantage of encouraging over-the-top elaboration ("and then we take the real key and drive away in the guy's own car!) instead of the real-life con approach of "Keep it simple, stupid."

As a practical matter, you might also want to give the player more time in real life than the character would have in game-time to come up with clever stuff, just as most games don't really require you to figure out your optimal combat maneuver in three seconds while people try to kill you.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2005, 08:48:11 PM »

If that matches up, then I gotta say, I think the guy's dug himself a really deep hole, crawled into it, and pulled it in after him. Pretty hard to work constructively with someone who's done that.
Oooh, not sure about that one. I've gone through that with my 5yo son "I've failed at what I tried, this sucks!". It's about giving positive feedback about the small parts of the challenge he did suceed at, with pats on the back, encouraging more. If that's work for someone to give, it's probably because their not particularly interested in gamism.
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Philosopher Gamer
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contracycle
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2005, 02:31:02 AM »

What confuses me about this is a real scam is a trick, a setup, and the mark does not understand what game THEY are playing.  Real scams are not, or are seldom, improvised acts of dishonesty.  They are purposeful, planned acts of dishonesty.  I'm not sure scams like this can be conducted as one characters niche; in such stories, all the characters are part of the scam and the scam itself is probably the whole plot.
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2005, 08:26:55 AM »


Greetings,

  You may want to consider Dying Earth (or at least, have him consider it).  You want to be a tricksy con-artist?  Great, pretty much *everyone* in DE is a tricksy con-artist.  The system allows for even paper-thin cons to work because everyone is also a pompous blow-hard who's absolutely convinced that *they* can't be taken in.

  The upside?  Cons galore on a moment's notice!  The downside?  You're just as likely to be taken in as the next guy.  Sometimes the dice go against you and you'll go along with a patently obvious ruse.  This will probably piss him off -- losing control over a character's decisions is an enraging and often frightening experience.  I might attempt to suggest that in DE, the conniving and cajoling is like combat.  In most RPGs where physical conflict is allowed/encouraged, you can't expect to never get hit or even severely injured -- and that injury will often sharply constrain the choices you get to make next.  In DE, physical combat is replaced by social combat and sometimes you get the short end of the stick.   

  Now, Ron may be perfectly right and this guy is searching for some "magic bullet" system that turns him into Conny MacSwindle that doesn't exist and he'll go on forever bemoaning his fate.  So it wouldn't matter what system you tried to give him.  Dying Earth isn't the perfect system he's looking for, but if he's willing to make some compromises, he might have a lot of fun.  And if you can get him to break down and make some compromises about his "ideal system" he might be more willing to re-envision his ideal for the systems you normally use.

  There's one other suggestion I might offer.  Have your player read up on real cons and swindles.  Start with small, pente-ante jobs like 3-card monte, change swindles, and other small bits of graft.  Work with him to figure out how your system would handle it.  Once you agree on a few, he's got a small toolbox of little cons.  They're just like a spell or other special effect.  Whenever it's appropriate, he can pull out one of his little cons and try them out.  You don't have to come up with any "special" NPCs for him to work his craft on, he can either target anyone the party encounters or he can make a special trip to look for an easy mark.  Very few con artists will just make up something on the spot, they'll come up with a con, rehearse and practice it and then carefully target people.  Slow thinking to formulate a good plan well in advance rather than spot-improv is the rule of thumb. 

Good Luck
Tom
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The Three Stooges ran better black ops.

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Callan S.
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2005, 08:39:27 PM »

I just wanted to add a side note: When I mentioned conflict resolution letting you "say anything" I mean this. With a conflict resolution roll you could say your character has gotten to stage ten of space invaders. However, compare saying this with the player actually getting on an arcade machine and getting to level 10 himself, so as to win the right to say his character got to level 10.

Now imagine using conflict res and saying you conned someone Vs using a minigame that you have to win, to win the right to say you conned someone. If Hyph is right and I hit the nail on the head, the difference is vital, even if the end result is identical.

Now, the guy may suck at minigames/space invaders and may whine about that. But either you nurture his accomplishments (even if that's patting him on the back for getting half way through level one), or you don't. If you don't, because that's too much work, then your not really interested in gamism and you should just stop playing with him (or to be exact, he should stop playing with you).
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Philosopher Gamer
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2005, 06:00:08 AM »

Hello,

Let's all wait on Gary's next post before replying further.

Best,
Ron
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