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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 251 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: The Angry Pinball  (Read 5100 times)
JamesDJIII
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« on: April 08, 2003, 04:52:40 PM »

Names has been ommitted to protect the innocent:

I've been a player in a more-often-than-twice-a-month (is that bi-monthly or semi-monthly?) FRPG. Most of the characters are keen, deep, well played by engaging players. The GM is pretty good except... well except for some really big honkin' issues.

In fact, while I was reading "Sorcerer" I came across some GM advice that while I'd always practiced, I never saw in print until then. So Ron got another instant "convert." The point is that the advice admonished EVER telling a player what his character felt.

And that's the tip fo the iceberg. It sort of boiled down to the sort of GMing that is for all practical purposes solo-authored fiction with dice-rolling.

For game after game I noticed our GM would repeatedly tell players *how* their characters parried blows, or snuck up on the enemy, or _felt_ about what was happnening. And MAN o'MAN did this rankle me!

It also so happened that this GM had used the same source material years earlier with another group of friends (long away and far away). I began to suspect that I was experiencing a massive recycling effort.

My suspicions were almost proven out. I am sure we're not following the script as I think our GM expected. In fact, he provides us with lots and lots of meta-game narrative. That's fun... but... I think it merely underlines the focus on the Very Cool (tm) NPCs.

I've also noticed the nigh invulnerability of some of these NPCs we've had to face. We managed to kill one of the - only after one of the players (let
s call him Lt. Rules-Lawyer) finagled a brilliant tactical combination of attacks that allowed for the luck of the dice to come through. But you could tell that the GM was upset - clearly, this wasn't "supposed to happen."

I also noticed that during climactic combats, if a spell was cast that would short-circuit massive hand-to-hand duels, that spell would "misfire" in ways not outlined in the rules. I've also had spell my PC cast ignored, interrupted by whim, or if it did go off, the effects somehow diluted to the point of innefectiveness.

But that's not the worst part.

The worst part is when I attempted to seize the game by it's neck and shake it. I clearly and directly began to voice my intention to provide a new narrative direction... and.... it was ignored. Completely. Because we had another "mission" to complete.

I'm afraid the Rebellion has begun. I've started to be more and more blunt about disregarding our "missions." Soon, my "good" PC may start to annihilate irritating NPCs. Anyone else have this happen to you?
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rafial
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2003, 08:37:17 PM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII

For game after game I noticed our GM would repeatedly tell players *how* their characters parried blows, or snuck up on the enemy, or _felt_ about what was happnening. And MAN o'MAN did this rankle me!


I had an interesting reaction to this sentence.  I of course sympathize with the "deprotaganization" you are feeling, but here's the thing:  a game like Trollbabe explicitly authorizes the first part of this (GM telling the characters how they succeed) although not the second, and in the little bit of Trollbabe I've played so far, I never felt in anyway "disempowered".  So I'm lead to speculate why that is.

One thought that crosses my mind is that since Trollbabe is giving me the power to control the large elements of play (i.e. setting stakes, establishing goals, calling for scenes) the loss of a little control in the small is just not that big of a bother.  Whereas in your case, not only has control of the large themes been taken from you, but even control over the small aspects of your character.

Quote from: JamesDJIII

And that's the tip fo the iceberg. It sort of boiled down to the sort of GMing that is for all practical purposes solo-authored fiction with dice-rolling ... Anyone else have this happen to you?


Oh yeah... There was a GM I played with throughout high school who was the master of this approach.  The players were inevitably opposed by ultra powerful NPC who they could not possibly oppose on their own, so they were naturally aided by super powerful helpful NPCs.  The players' job was to play out amusing color scenes between being shuttled from set piece to set piece and spectating at amazing battles.  I once timed the GM rolling dice against himself for 30 minutes while the players sat around and ate snacks.

A few years back, I wound up getting in touch with him again, and joining a  Feng Shui campaign that he was starting up.  After a few play sessions, I finally realized there was an alternative to playing a game that was mostly boring and frustrating to me, which was: don't play.

Quote from: JamesDJIII

I'm afraid the Rebellion has begun. I've started to be more and more blunt about disregarding our "missions." Soon, my "good" PC may start to annihilate irritating NPCs.


Um, be careful.  I think all you are going to accomplish by that route is to create a lot bad feelings in real life.  Are the other players equally dissatisfied with the GM's methods?  If yes, perhaps you could have an open discussion about what is going on.   If not, I think you had better find another group.
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Ian Charvill
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2003, 02:51:16 AM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII
I'm afraid the Rebellion has begun. I've started to be more and more blunt about disregarding our "missions." Soon, my "good" PC may start to annihilate irritating NPCs. Anyone else have this happen to you?


I'm going to echo rafial's comments.  Don't deal with this indirectly, by passively aggressivley disrupting the campaign.  Tlka to the GM, talk to the other players, hash this out.  Difficult as it may be, it's a problem with a social solution.

I've been in your situation.  I've tried to deal with it through in-game disruption.  I've ensured a lot of my friends didn't have fun for a while because I couldn't butch up and actually discuss what my problem with the game was.
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Ian Charvill
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2003, 06:00:24 AM »

This is obviously a play mode issue. The question is at what level it's occuring. If you like Ron's stuff, there's a chance that what you're interested in is Narrativist play. But let's look a bit closer to identify what you want so that you can communicate it more clearly to the GM. If you're not sure what you want in at least general terms all the GM is going to hear is that you don't like what he's doing.

So, is there any level of GM control of "plot" or "story" or character exploration, that you find acceptable? Would you prefer that the GM stay completly out of the way in terms of decisions that affect protagonism (which definitely includes taking them away and putting them in the hands of NPCs), or would you simply prefer a lighter touch? Perhaps you'd be satisfied with a better Illusionist approach? One where the character's are more the protagonists? Or would you prefer to be totally in the drivers seat there?

I'm tempted to guess full-fleged Narrativism is what you're looking for (especially given the remarks about ignoring the "missions"), but that's just a stab. In any case, if that's true, you'll be asking your GM to radically shift his mode of play. Consider that from his POV, he's playing correctly. There are some players who prefer the sort of play that he's providing. Sounds very CoC, actually.

The more you work out what sort of control you want, the better you can elucidate it to the GM.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2003, 06:09:48 AM »

Hey,

Been there. Which person? All three - the GM, the frustrated player, and the other players.

Here's my reading of the situation.

1. The GM is an illusionist who has graded, over time, into railroading. (Marco, what do you think?) Just as many players will try the same character-type over and over in order to "say something" about that character, but keep not achieving it, many GMs want to get their Story told, but again, fail over and over - and thus keep trying. As time goes on, they get more and more aggressive with many techniques to keep "on track."

2. The frustrated player can be exhibitiing any number of profiles - in my case, it was the frustrated Narrativist (meaning both the illusionism and the railroading were intolerable), but he or she might just as easily be a happy participant in Illusionist play - except that the railroading is going overboard.

3. You will not solve this situation, to the extent of promoting the sort of play that you want in this group, with this GM. Subversion won't do it. "Communication" won't do it either (I am generally unimpressed with "if we all just talk" problem-solving). I can't over-stress this point: the whole situation, from Social Contract down to the very techniques and stances of play, is blown.

My only advice is to find the player or two who'd rather be playing without this GM, and start a new group.

Final and minor notes:

a) Trollbabe never permits the GM to establish what the player-character is feeling.

b) My advice in Sorcerer is limited to Sorcerer and similar games (which includes Trollbabe); some sorts of play set functional limits on "feelings" narration that permits people to cross GM/player and player/player lines in this way without causing problems.

c) Most commonly, however, GM-narration of player-character feelings is employed as a railroading technique.

Best,
Ron
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clehrich
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2003, 07:39:31 AM »

James,

[this is long, sorry]

I've been struggling with this problem myself lately.  I've got a GM who's doing a great deal of what you describe, and it all sort of weaves together into a coherent but completely dull whole.  I also wanted to take the game and shake it by the scruff of the neck, but didn't have a lot of initial success.  Here's some points to bear in mind; ignore those that don't fit:

1. The GM is almost certainly trying to have a good game.  He's got a clear vision of various components and pieces, and he really wants everyone else to join into it.  But he's having trouble, because you people keep doing things outside the vision.  Thus he just tells you.  What he thinks he's doing, I suspect, is giving you models to follow:  "See how I just did that combat scene?  Okay, now you need to do it like that."

2. I am very surprised to hear you say that most of the players are engaging and involved.  In my experience, this sort of behavior is a spiraling cycle of death.  First the GM is frustrated because people don't seem to be "doing it right," so the GM takes more control.  Now people are less interested, so they increasingly don't "do it right," which makes the GM more frustrated, so he seizes more control in order to show them how to "do it right," and so forth.  If everyone's actually involved and interested, maybe they're all just really passive people who want to be told a story.

3. Your motives in "shaking the game" are a bit conflicted, and you need to be very careful.  On the one hand, you're bored silly, or annoyed, and you want to get to do more fun things.  The obvious question arises: why continue to play with these people at all?  This is where a lot of people miss what you're really saying: you like them, and you think they could learn to play in a way that would be more rewarding for them all.  Good -- but don't fall into the GM's trap: don't try to do it just by showing them a model of how to "do it right."  You tried that, and you just got a head-on conflict of two versions of right-ness.  Not surprisingly, you were ignored.

4. You can certainly try talking to the other players and the GM.  In my experience, you won't get an actual change from this; you'll get a lot of positive response but no actual effect in the game.  But it's very helpful to have the GM thinking he's on your side, so that when you start the subtle revolution he's not already your enemy.  Remember: if you want to win this, it's got to be a bloodless coup.  The regime change has to be completely agreed-upon by everyone; if it isn't, you fail.

5. Having talked to people a bit, try doing some stuff around the fringes.  Chances are, the players and GM are pretty much agreed that the Important Plot Mission must be taken seriously and focused upon in the Traditional Approved Manner.  Don't mess with that.  But really do up the color scenes a treat.  What you want is for an increasing amount of mental attention to get paid to the color scenes, because they're fun.  Think Fang's concept of shared GM-ing: the GM has made clear what he does, so don't take that, but assume that anything he doesn't control is something he wants to share.  Take it -- and then share it some more.  As you get the color scene wild and fun, use everything you know about the other characters to hook someone else (someone who seems into it) into the scene.  Pretty soon, a third will jump in, because nobody wants to be left out of the cool scene.  Note that none of this matters in the slightest for the Important Plot Mission, but nor does it impede that Mission.  If the GM tries to cut it off, whine: "Aw, c'mon, this is really cool.  Hang on a minute, okay?"  Note the shift to a meta-perspective on play implicit here.

6. Now here's the really tricky part.  Once this sort of thing has become a regular feature, you need to work overtime to prompt other people into starting it.  It's not "James and his great scenes," it's a way for everyone to play.  Once other people start these scenes, and do the whining about not getting cut off, the GM is going to want to jump in too.  Let the entire group guide him to use the Force and let go.  But remember: you've got to let go, too.  This isn't going to happen quickly.  A single great color scene that everyone's talking about after the session is a triumph, precisely because everyone remembers the color and nobody cares about the mission.  If you keep pushing, you'll wreck the balance.  This is something you have to tempt people into, not force them.

7. Some day, when you're really really sure everyone's in it for the color scenes and the GM is starting to get conflicted about this (great, the campaign is fun, but nobody cares about my plot), you might want to propose a new game.  Which you'll run.  Which will be Sorcerer or something.  And thus the west was won.

Final points:
A. It's going to take a long time.  You must be very, very patient.
B. If you get too frustrated, this will show, and will be read as antagonism.
C. Some people may simply hate the shift in style, and leave the game.  If that's a lot of people, you should bow out.
D. Never, never antagonize the GM's pet things.  By now you know what they are, so don't piss on them.

Of course, if these people aren't particularly great friends of yours, you might just want to bail.

Good luck!
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Chris Lehrich
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2003, 07:45:36 AM »

Hi there,

I agree with every word of Chris' post except for the final sentence:

Quote
Of course, if these people aren't particularly great friends of yours, you might just want to bail.


I'd say the opposite! To be clear: insofar as they are your friends, that's an excellent reason to stop doing something with them that you aren't enjoying.

(Obviously, if they aren't good friends and you're not enjoying play, that's also a good reason to leave, but that's a no-brainer.)

Real friendships are not threatened by whether gaming-groups are preserved. The notion that gaming per se provides the entire context for the friendship (as opposed to merely being the door to a friendship, even one in which you don't do much besides game together) is very, very fucked-up.

Best,
Ron
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JamesDJIII
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Posts: 201


« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2003, 03:06:10 PM »

I think this is what's going to happen: the game is going to implode.

I thought about what I said re: the number of engaged players. That number is dwindling, if I can read the body language and other signs. I thinkat one point the game was very very charged with energy. But now things are, well not so charged.

I'm not really sure I can be diplomatic enough to change the situation. I think that within a year I won't even be living in the same area as the current group.  I think more and more I go to "game night" more as a means of hanging out with my friends than for the purpose of RPGing for fun. I'm fairly sure I'll keep going for as long as I can.

I've since spoken to another player about this. He is of the same mind I am with respect to what the problem is. It's interesting in that he's always been a more "loose cannon" than me, but maybe that's about to change.

I don't think I will intentionally sabotage the game. But I might subconicously do things that I might otherwise never consider.  Hmmm.
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Marco
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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2003, 08:53:50 PM »

I saw Ron's question (long ago as it was posted) tonight. I don't know where it started, but it sounds railroaded to me (on a scale of 1-10, an 8.5: a rules-lawyer can still de-rail the train but you have to be pushy and the GM will adjudicate "random" spell failure if you're not lawyerin').

My advice: get out while you still can!

-Marco
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2003, 01:51:13 AM »

Wow Chris, way to say pretty much all that needs to be said.

So, I'll just add...

Honesty is the best policy - you can be suggestive without being subversive.  I think talking it out can work if you can open up a gentle critique system (it has been effective for me, but obviously not for Ron, YMMV).  Get the GM in the habit of asking 'How did things go? What did you like?', and let him know.  Don't pound the GM to hard all at once or tell him he's wrong.  If he's anything like most people he'll get defensive quick and stop listening.  Just let him know what you liked and didn't like.  I'd start with his Very Cool NPC's first.  Logically speaking, it's very easy to understand that if the NPC's are stealing all the spotlight the GM is just playing by himself.  Everybody else in the group wants their special character to do cool things like the NPC's get to - really, it's difficult to argue against.  Other things can get more tricky.  The invalidating of spells, undefeatable villians, describing players actions for them, these can all be rationalized as 'promoting roleplaying', 'adding color', 'keeping the story alive', or whatever else sounds good at the time.  Pick somewhere easy to start and work up to connected concepts.
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- Cruciel
JamesDJIII
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2003, 04:18:29 PM »

These are all wonderful, peaceful suggestions.

Must resist... temptation... to .... fry... NPCs. Must hold back... rage...
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2003, 01:42:14 PM »

Hello James,

I'm asking you directly: why are you continuing to play?

In fact, let me change the intonation: why are you continuing to play.

Everything I'm seeing so far gives me no reason, at all, for you to do so. So I figure I might be missing something.

Please note, though - I'm completely uninterested in any social reasons for you to be doing so. If those reasons were "good enough," then you wouldn't be experiencing the frustration that you are. So they're not good enough. Give me a role-playing, hobby-enjoyment, actual-play-experience reason that leads you to continue to play with this group.

No role-playing is better than bad role-playing (where "bad" = not fun for the person involved).

Best,
Ron
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