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Author Topic: [Mage] Cross pollination  (Read 3511 times)
Russell Collins
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« on: December 19, 2005, 09:40:44 AM »

My usual DitV game almost wasn't on last night. In fact, I expected it would just be me GMing and one player, so we discussed possible alternates for the evening. We eventually settled on the new Mage, since that player (Chris) and I had played a few good sessions years ago with the earlier edition. So we went out and bought the books and marathon read through Saturday getting ready for Sunday night. But then, another player can make it, so it's now Chris, Phil and I, enough to pick Dogs back up if we want. However, Chris and I had spent the whole day getting excited about the secret world of magic and throwing lightning bolts and such around, so we really wanted to go ahead with Mage anyway.

When Phil arrived, he was happy to try something new, and we made up characters and I set them to the task of finding why contained spirits were being set loose all over Philly. Things were running in an interesting way for a while, but I started to see some "player habits" creeping in from our dogs game.

Largely it was in the group dynamic. Phil usually plays the quiet good cop Dog while Chris is fire, brimstone and gunsmoke. The mages they created turned that concept on it's ear, with Chris playing a formal magician in a European line while Phil made up a samll time crook who just happened upon an awakening during a drug trip. Despite the changes of persona though, after an hour they were drifting into their old Dogs roles, with the formal mage in the foreground and becoming more aggressive, while the criminal faded into support of whatever Chris wanted to do.

So, is this really a problem? We all know that group mechanic has served us well in Dogs. Should I point out to the players the similarities appearing in Mage? Or try to nudge them in the direction of staying true to the varied personalities they invented, probably leading to less comfortable play? Is this just the way my players play?

I'm not necessarily asking for advice, so much as trying to find out how we feel about a group dynamic from game to game.

Thanks.
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Russell Collins
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2005, 09:57:50 AM »

It's interesting. Players do tend towards a particular style of play and to take particular roles in a group. Provided the group dynamic seems "healthy" - everyone gets a fair amount of play, there's no bullying, and no-one seems unhappy - it doesn't seem like a problem.

But, in your specific case, I think it would be good to point out what you see. "You guys realise you're playing the same roles as you did in Dogs, right? Are you OK with that? All right, just checking..."

How did you find Mage, Russell? I played a live-action version recently and I wasn't that impressed. The resolution system still seems dull although, mercifully, faster. And the magic system didn't excite me much.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2005, 10:07:04 AM »

Hello,

The members of our group observed a similar phenomenon a couple of years ago, after we had played Hero Wars for quite a while and settled into some specific player roles in that game and for those characters. Maura played a harsh-spoken, justice-driven lawyer-type character, who usually provided "cut to the chase, choose your poison" verbal input into community problems the characters faced as a group.

However, the next game we played was Dust Devils, which is far more focused on internal character conflict and "cards fall where they may" outcomes for situations. Maura uncharacteristically stumbled in playing Dust Devils, not sure what to do or how to do it, and often falling back on role-playing and character-decisions that kept reminding us of Calliacht, her Hero Wars character. I think it was about halfway through our second session when Tod turned to her and said, "Hey, 'Calliacht' - we're not here to save the town." She kind of blinked and said, "Oh!" and then swung into playing her "cold as the mountain snows" slit-eyed lynx of a Dust Devils character, and also making far more use of the resolution/narration mechanics, without further hesitation.

This kind of tough-love is typical among our group; I don't recommend it to the faint-hearted. My only transferable observation is that it's perfectly all right, it seems to me, to call for some reflection about the observation among your group, without any particular need to dictate what anyone wants to do about it.

There is an interesting direct lineage in your case as well, as our experiences with Hero Wars dramatically influenced my design of Trollbabe, and that design influenced Vincent in writing Dogs. All three are highly, highly oriented toward characters "coming to town" and affecting whatever social and spiritual crises are occurring there. So I can really see where you're coming from in this case.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2005, 10:26:58 AM »

You've got a tough case, cause whereas Dogs has a reward system that reinforces characterization, Mage rather emphatically does not.  The only way you can address the issue is through the social contract, so I definately would speak up, as Graham suggested, and have a short discussion about it.  It may be that Phil is fine following Chris' lead in general -- but it may also be that Chris doesn't want to take the lead but feels that he's got to.  Get it on the table so you can at least make sure it's not a niggling back-of-the-brain problem.
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Russell Collins
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« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2005, 10:58:42 AM »

So far I've gotten along with the mechanics of the game. They've put a greater emphasis on Rote spells rather than improvisational magic, which I like because character skills and attributes actually come into play. Older editions of mage, you could cut off the top of the character sheet and just play with the magic stats and it would make no difference.

I figure it's not worth rattling their comfort with the game to point out the similarities, but if I think they could get more enjoyment out of exploring a different way to play, I will certainly suggest it. This is the social engineering side of GMing, you know, the stuff that gets a sidebar in major publisher's game when it deserves it's own book?

The bigger adjustment for the players is power levels. Their Dogs are well seasoned and can shout down crowds of angry townsfolk. It's awkward to suddenly be fledgling mages, risking disaster with every minor incantation. We've already had a "step-back" to discuss that and warn them from getting in over their heads.
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Russell Collins
Composer, sound designer, gamer, dumpling enthusiast.
Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2005, 11:23:51 AM »

I figure it's not worth rattling their comfort with the game to point out the similarities, but if I think they could get more enjoyment out of exploring a different way to play, I will certainly suggest it. This is the social engineering side of GMing, you know, the stuff that gets a sidebar in major publisher's game when it deserves it's own book?

While Mage might have been written with this assumption, that may not be how your players are expecting it to run.  Do they really think that it's your job to do the social engineering of the play group?  When social contract issues are so patently ignored as they are in mainstream games, it's generally a bad idea to assume that everybody is on the same page when switching between different (and undocumented) contracts.
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Russell Collins
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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2005, 12:37:13 PM »

Actually, I find I'm taking on more and more of the "workload" from my players these days.

I'm not really saying it's my job as GM, but it's just my job to get them thinking about it, because I already am.
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Russell Collins
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Blankshield
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« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2005, 12:52:27 PM »

This may simply be a matter of "some players play similar/the same characters in different games."  Worth talking about as a play group, but not worth losing sleep over.  Speaking as a player who often hits this rut, it can take conscious effort to overcome it.

AP example: I "typically" play strong, developed characters.  I'm also fairly forceful at the table, and about 4 times in 5 end up as the defacto leader.  I recently started in a Riddle of Steel adaptation of the original Dragonlance modules.  I deliberately chose to play Tasslehoff to break this rut, because any of the other characters would probably put me right back in charge.

James
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2005, 06:09:52 PM »

The examples (gains and Rons) are also interesting in how components of the characters 'personality' become the unwritten rules that guide gameplay. It's interesting, as I wonder how deliberately these parts of the characters were made with a 'game design' process in mind.
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Russell Collins
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« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2005, 06:52:04 AM »

All valid points certainly!

Looking at it as a personality quirk of the player, I can see that it only bothers me because I try to avoid being "pigeonholed" by playing the same character type. In fact, I usually end up all over the map with what I want my characters to be.

Still, it gets me thinking about games that state as their intent an attempt to challenge the player's style of play. For example . . . drawing a blank, but I know it was somewhere. I'll check the library later.
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My homeworld was incinerated by orbital bombardment and all I got was this lousy parasite.

Russell Collins
Composer, sound designer, gamer, dumpling enthusiast.
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