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Shooting Stars 5/14/04 - Dysfunction, Dysfunction

Started by jeffd, May 16, 2004, 08:59:26 AM

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See Shooting Stars 5/1/04 for my last play summary and slice, as well as character breakdown and all.

Play tonight was characterized by not one but two instances of pretty bad dysfunction.  Oddly enough both were on the part of the GM toward me.  But I'll get to that.

Pre-game:  Last time I mentioned I was frustrated by the deprotagonization and the fact that largely our characters didn't contribute much to the plot.  Well, turns out another player came to me and mentioned the same - shocking since I didn't expect the others would be dissatisfied... by and large they'r easygoing folk who are happy to game even if it's mostly as spectators.  Anyway, she pipes up before game that she feels railroaded and basically wants to "feel like she has a choice between two doors, even if it's the same thing behind each one."  She wants the illusion.  I mention that I want to feel like our characters have some input into how things turn out.  Jim notes it and we move on.

Situation:  With Von still poisoned we returned to the pleasure world of Dal-Bootha where we took the job that originally got him poisoned to confront the mysterious Boss.  The Boss after a bit of persuading offered us information on a mystic on another planet who could cure the poison.  The curing ritual went badly wrong, and we were presented with the classic sci-fi body-swap episode.

What happened:  The game started off with some serious dysfunction IMO.  We go to Dal-Bootha and are outside the Boss's club, called the Seraphim's Thirst.  At this point our Vampire friend Spike (yes the same spike from Buffy) looks inside, looks at the club's name, and pronounces he'll be back at the ship.  At this point I figure out the identity of the mysterious Boss - it's Angel from the Buffyverse (hence Seraphim's Thirst).  I bust up, another player figures it out.  Em mentions that she's clueless and I say I figured out who the Boss is - I tell her to think hard about the club's name.  Segue into....

Dysfunction #1  At this point, Jim the GM turns toward me and shouts at the top of his lungs "Jeff, shut your fucking hole!"  

I'm kind of stunned, wondering for a moment if he's fucking with me or serious.  He's serious.  Social context time: he's stressed out by some bad shit happening to him latel.  But still....  A few minutes later he apologizes for his outburst and mentions that while it's cool I figured things out, I shouldn't share them.  Thanks a fucking lot for letting me know that ahead of time.  :(  I didn't want to disrupt the game further by making a scene of it so I let it slide 'til later - I mentioned that that was pretty much unacceptable to me after game.

So anyway, Boss points us at mystic, mystic does ritual.  In the midst of ritual we see some movement off in the woods nearby and them BOOM, mystic's head is gone.  Power courses and we all pass out, waking up in different bodies.

This had some potential.  The body switches looked like this:

Dayne (that's my character) ended up in Lynnaea's body
April ended up in Dayne's body
D ended up in Von's body
Von ended up in April's body
Spike ended up in D's body
and Lynnaea ended up in Spike's body

Oh, and Von's body is still hideously poisoned.  I move into action pretty quickly, using my slayer physicality to dash toward where the movement in the woods was - I get there soon enough to find a woman in dark hair fleeing on a bike.

We track the bike - turns out the Governer's son had one that was stolen some time ago.  We meet with him - his daughter as well disappeared recently; turns out his daughter disappeared around the same time as the bike and was seen with this dark haired woman.  Back at the mystic's house we find a missing book - we figure out that whoever stole it is looking to do some mysticism of their own but will need a sacred circle, the creation of which requires certain herbs.  Cut to the herb shop, where we learn a dark haired girl just recently purchased those herbs - and oh there she is.  My character goes dashing after her, running her down on the bike and pulling her from it - then confronting her and punching her in a fit of pique.  Not realizing my own strenth I shatter her jaw (despite the fact that I told Jim I was pulling the blow - I had to roll for it and botched.  Kinda annoying given I didn't want that to happen but at least I didn't whiff awfully... anyway, it was kinda funny).

So the chick is wearing a wig - it's the mayor's daughter, she's got the missing book which has the soul transfer ritual going.  Turns out the mystic was going to just xfer Von and April - so Von would technically no longer be poisoned.  Dick.  Mayor and his son come on board our ship, take the daughter, leave.  WE go into orbit and do the soul transfer ritual and get back into our bodies.  

Now, at this point Dayne pronounces he's taking the ship down because "Something isn't right about what happened with that girl..." - killing the mystic, stealing his soul xfer spell book.  I've figured that it isn't the daughter in that body.  

Dysfunction #2  At this point Jim makes throat-cutting motions at me and says.  "No, you don't take the ship down.  You jump out of system.  The game ends on a tragic note."  I protest and he reiterates that he knows I don't like it but this session ends on a tragic note, and that's final, it's midnight, he wants to be done.  So my character takes us out of system.  Can you railroad harder than this?  

Fun observations:  It was interesting to see how players handled being in other bodies.  There was a lot of making fun of one another "man I'm ugly/fat/etc," and a lot of "Don't you mess up this body!" and at least one joke from the men in women's bodies of the like of "I'm going to go play with myself!"  For the most part I enjoyed being a lot more physical than my character typically is.  April got to wear the captain's hat and pretty badly bungled it (in explaining why we had the governer's daughter she listed off how there was a magic ritual that went wrong and we needed to know why the girl wanted to do magic...).  Theoretically this type of episode is to give the characters a greater appreciation for one another, though I'm skeptical that'll show through in roleplaying.  

Final Thoughts:  Man I sound whiny, reading over this.  Given the level of dysfunction shown I've 90% decided to simply drop the game.  I like playing my character but I don't get any real chances to play him the way I want to - when it happens it's usually in spite of the GM/other players.  I'm going to think about it (maybe I'm just pissy about being shouted at) but I forsee a talk with the GM in a week or so where I explain exactly why I'm not happy and I'm leaving his game.


edit:  Oh you're probably wondering what that tragic note is.  Basically the Governer had two children - a son (who would inherit his position) and a daughter.  The son was a whiny fuckup, the daughter was cold ruthless and intelligent.  So the governer had their bodies switched by the mystic.  The son (now in daughter's body) killed him and stole his ritual book in the hopes of switching their bodies back.   I had mostly figured this out, but as I said - GM wanted a tragic note.


Wow... that's dysfunctional.

I see a different dysfunction than the social ones at work, possibly the one that is creating the social ones but who knows.

Specifically, this guy is spreading hints about what is happening, and is actively interested in you not figuring those hints out.  Enough so that he's using force and outright intimidation to try to prevent it.

I suspect that he may have a hazy feeling that a Buffy-type plot should include large levels of irony... they go into the "Seraphim's Thirst" bar, and the clever members of the audience snicker because they've figured out who must own the bar while the characters don't have a clue.  The characters jump out of the system not knowing what they've just contributed to, and there is a dark and tragic epilogue because of their ignorance.

Problem being, he's cast only himself as the clever members of the audience.  He may feel his agenda depends upon you and the other players being stupid, so that he can lay these clues out for anyone to see, but have you not see them.

Now I don't know if I ought to encourage the 10% of you that wants to stay.  But hey, it's your situation, not mine.  So if you want to try to rehabilitate the GM, I think you might try recommending the following:
    [*]Encourage his cleverness, and his desire to promote irony.  It's a nice goal, after all[*]Point out that the players are the only audience who can properly appreciate the scope of his irony, and that it's a shame if they aren't allowed to figure it out[*]Explain that the players figuring it out doesn't mean that the characters have to[*]Recommend that everyone would benefit if he expects the players to figure out his stories, and the players in turn agreed to keep their characters in the dark until the appropriate moment for a dramatic revelation[/list:u]With any luck, your GM won't even realize how much directorial and authorial power resides in that little phrase "appropriate moment".

    Anyway, my sympathies for your plight.  It sounds quite frustrating.

    Edited to reduce early-morning vitriol
    Just published: Capes
    New Project:  Misery Bubblegum


    I'm thinking is: you said what you wanted, and the GM felt either (a) "I'm being oppressed! Stupid players - you know, the ones who ALWAYS ruing a story! - are asking this I can't give!" (b) "You're telling me how to do my job!" and (c) "Drama queen / Munchkin".

    None of these are valid/right, but I think that giving advice is thrusting him ever more into the defensive (offensive even); it could be the social contract of this group is ultimately major-scripting/force, and a illusionist plot at the cost of occaisionally feeling gimpy. i.e. You might eventually have that episode where you felt like your play mattered.

    Both those comments are honestly scary, because they are showing some majorly fun-killing anger about what you're contributing to the game, and I'm majorly not sure what you can do about that. I think fear (c) above is the major one: he has his anti-munchkin shield up, and is fearful that you're the one to WRECK HIS GAME. GMs are trained to think this way, and honestly in most groups they're punished for doing otherwise.

    So, you probably can't continue unless you want to play into this style, and you probably wouldn't want that. You should talk with him to say that you're leaving, and talk it out to explain *why* (that is, explain that you weren't arguing merely because of a prevalence of whiff effects or whatnot); he doesn't have to agree, but you want him to understand to no longer feel this genuine anger.


    Thanks for the replies.

    Tony I think you've nailed it about the irony - I think the GM wants to wait until his shocking revelation of who the owner of the club really is so we're all duly impressed and me giving an overt hint threatened that.  Honestly I do think the shouting me down was at least partially a product of him having a really lousy day - that doesn't make it acceptable of course, but that's the reason.

    Dev the social contract is indeed very much scripting/illusionist.  A good chunk of the players were weaned on White-Wolf style LARPing during their college years and that's their subsequent GMing style - there's a story, maybe a good one, and we'll get to it eventually in the meantime just do your thing.