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Author Topic: Your worst campaign ever?  (Read 6169 times)
Kenway
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« on: March 20, 2002, 03:42:59 PM »

Hi.
  Do you think this is a valid subject to talk about?
  In particular, lessons to be learned could be summarized at the end.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2002, 09:42:56 PM »

Quote from: Kenway
Hi.
  Do you think this is a valid subject to talk about?
  In particular, lessons to be learned could be summarized at the end.

I think it's valid, but I'm not sure there's much to talk about. I mean, if a campaign is really bad, you usually figure out a way to bail early, right? So there isn't much to talk about.
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2002, 11:11:21 PM »

Quote
I think it's valid, but I'm not sure there's much to talk about. I mean, if a campaign is really bad, you usually figure out a way to bail early, right? So there isn't much to talk about.


On the contrary, I think there are a lot of people out there who are into gaming, and stick with a certain group or game system out of habit more than anything, even if it's not what they really want. For them, bailing is not an option, either because they don't want to stop gaming with their current group, or because it simply hasn't occurred to them. I was like that for a long time.

The worst campaign? That's a tough one, though. There have been a lot of campaigns that had both good and bad elements, both in big piles.

I was in a Cyberpunk game once that really went on way too long. I didn't have the vocab for it at the time, but the Ref was hard-core world-sim. He wanted to model "real life", or at least what he thought real life would be in 2020 after world economic collapse. The lethality level was high (No fudging of die rolls, dead was dead), the incidence of random events was high, a lot of stuff happened and then never got resolved (and it was like that because, well hey, sometimes things don't get resolved in real life, right?). Characters were likely to get killed going down to the corner for smokes. On top of that, the Ref was really against the concept of scene framing (what at the time we called "Hollywoodizing time"), for what reason, I never did understand.

We started with three players (of which I was one), and added people whenever friends happened to come over on game night and were interested in what we were doing. At the height of the campaign, there maybe eight players. The character turnover rate was high (several players left because of this), so by the time the campaign finally just fizzled, I was the only one left with my original character, and I had worked myself into such a position that I was lucky if I would get as much as fifteen minutes of screentime per six-hour session. The only way my character was able to survive as long as he did was because I'd deliberately -- though not consciously -- taken myself out of the action. Once, my character actually managed to convince a hit man that had been hired to eliminate him (guilt by association) that he was too pathetic to kill. Everyone else was on their third or fourth character, and the campaign had no real focus, and in the end it collapsed under its own weight.

Attempts to appeal to the Ref's sense of reason failed. He wasn't interested in telling a story, he was interested in maintaining [his conception of] realism. Characters were constantly deprotagonized. A friend of mine created a character deliberately loaded up on cyber, just so he could explore the process of degeneration into cyberpsychosis first-hand. Instead, he got his head blown off by a sniper rifle a session after bringing the character in (not even by C-SWAT or any similar organization).

My own character's concept was supposed to be centered around his attempt to drag himself back up out of the drug habit he'd sunk himself into, and try and get his life back together. Didn't happen. Instead, he got roped into secnario after crazy scenario, where some group wanted to go after another group and beat the crap out of them, usually outnumbered and outgunned. He lost a lot of friends, and in the end, came out terminally depressed. If the game had gone on even a single session longer than it did, I would have orchestrated his suicide (conflicting schedules and a newfound interest in professional wrestling on the part of my friends conspired against me on that one).

This is not to say that it was a complete disaster. There were, as I said, many excellent moments during the course of this campaign. Things that made us laugh, things that made us go "holy shit!", things that made our jaws drop and the sheer coolness, and at least one moment that brought us to tears.

The point is, I stuck with this one for months longer than I should have, because at the time, as far as I was concerned, it was the only game in town. Back then, I couldn't conceive of the possibility of gaming with anyone else other than my primary circle of friends.

If one were to look at it in GNS terms, this campaign was a nightmare. The Ref was world-sim, most of the players were char-sim, several of them were gamist. There was no social contract, no discussion out of game. You just sat down and played, what was it. And the game suffered because of it.
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Kenway
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Posts: 98


« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2002, 08:36:34 AM »

One day, we felt our typical AD&D adventures were getting boring (but that's another story), so we decided to let one of our players run a Palladium adventure for the first time.  There were many protests from some of our players, but a couple of us said to give him and the system a chance.
  So the GM spent about a week writing an adventure and drawing maps.

  The first day, we made our characters, which were pretty high level Palladium-wise.  Of course it took a long time since you had so many spells and skills and stuff.
  Anyway, it was evening by then and we started the adventure.  I don't remember exactly, but the town mayor asked us to go find some lost item somewhere.  Not a good start.
  We set off and were attacked by a "random encounter"- something like a bunch of orcs and wolves.
  In that first round of combat the problems became obvious.  Each participant had apparently a dozen attacks.  And everybody had to roll for parrying and then counterattacks.  I'm pretty sure we were following the rules properly.
  Anyway, the first combat *round* took about half an hour I think.  I said something like, "Geez, can't we just win, this is a random encounter!  Let's just go."  The GM said something like, "This won't take much longer."  So we kept on fighting.  The fight lasted several hours and I died due to bad rolling about halfway through.
  Anyway after that fight was all over we went home and never mentioned that player GMing or Palladium ever again.

  Lessons learned:  I thought the GM should have just *let* us win because it was just a freakin' random encounter!  Instead it took us the whole night.
  The GM should have playtested what a fight would be like at that high level instead of being surprised like the rest of us.
  After this sorry adventure I took it upon myself to do more than my share of DMing every other AD&D adventure we ran after that (and we welcomed AD&D with open arms again after that fiasco).  I made sure that random encounters, if needed at all, would only take 5 minutes tops to run!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2002, 08:39:49 PM »

Hello,

The worst experience for me, hands down, was a game that I ran during a summer visit to Chicago when I was living in Florida. A couple of my Champions buddies who'd played in that Best Game Ever that I'd run for years, a couple of other mutual friends, and I decided to play while I was in town. It was gonna be great, right? It was gonna be perfect, in fact, because we all knew the system, we'd played together mostly, the new people were friends and like comics for the same reasons, etc, etc.

It sucked. I had reached the "wanna make story" stage and so had most of the players. That in itself was terrible, because I as story-maker needed compliant/complicit players if it was to be my story - and they, now happily interested in taking a tad more interest in story-making than they'd used to, ran straight into my commitment to my intentions. I tried to do the more "retroactive" form of story-making and things became more and more disheveled-looking as a result.

One of the players, also, had a very selective memory of our original game in terms of how much fun it was to strategize in combat, and he bitterly resented any "editing" or "streamlining" of any rules or scene-changing that infringed on his strategic options.

We played several sessions, and the new people must have been horrified, as these three or four guys who'd boasted for years about their Best Game Ever were revealed to be utterly incapable of playing together.

What a terrible experience. We all "came to play," and we could not, not do it.

Best,
Ron
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2002, 12:00:04 AM »

My worst experience hails from CoC.

I was playing a young disabled horror-novelist in a wheelchair (not very wise, but it just felt right for the campaign and indeed, the game). We were in an dark empty mansion atop a hill and it was storming outside (can't get any better than that, eh?).

Anyway, the others suddenly ran off, leaving me in the vestibule.

Now, I have to mention an important fact about this game. Two "lurkers" had joined the game because they were bored. They weren't part of the group and were just mucking about basically. They were playing an old woman and her husband.

But back to the story.

There I am, squeaking along in my wheelchair. I slowly and nervously roll into the diningroom and everything is covered in sheets. Suddenly, one of the lurkers announces that his character, the old woman, is sitting in one of the chairs, underneath the sheet, and jumping up to scare me.
It works and I fire a handgun I hold in my trembling hands. Result, woman dead, my character severely flipping out and her (lurker) husband comes down.

I think to myself "they're just here because they're bored, so it won't matter that much". It just made perfect sense to me. I played the guy as a nervous little runt and they left me all alone, with a gun in my hand (they even put it there in the first place - "Here, take this for protection").
Next thing I know, the husband pulls out a shotgun he found and plasters my novelist's brains all over the wheelchair. Exit character.

Arguably, this was something logical for him to do as well, but should the GM have interfered here? I think so. In essence, what was going to be a great character, one that had a lot of internal exploring to do ("how could I kill a human being?", "Is this real horror?" etc.), was shot to hell by someone who was just there because his M:tG game had fizzled.

Anyway, that was a long time ago and I probably over-reacted. I did cause it myself by firing at the woman...

Any thoughts? Was I right to be disappointed in the GM for allowing a lurker to blow away a character that could have been very engrossing to me and the others?

Fer (Crayne)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2002, 08:23:17 AM »

Ferry,

I'm not sure what the "right thing" for the GM to do could possibly have been. You have described a recipe for disaster, already there in play, no matter who shot whom or whatever else happened.

You killed another player-character without the player's consent. Your justification? "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later." What about her character? "Oh, she didn't really care about the game anyway." In other words, you are saying that she didn't matter and you did. Only this double standard permits you to think that the third player's action could possibly be criticized.

Player-characters killing one another can be a great aspect of play. In Call of Cthulhu, such acts are often a big part of the play session, as various craziness and delusions escalate and terrible reactions ensue. I've played enough of it to know how much fun it is (and am trying to remember, in our last CofC session, whether my character dispatched another with a knife or a garrote. One of them, anyway).

To be fun, consent for such acts must exist. Ideally, it should exist among the group before play even begins. Without any knowledge or understanding of that consent (ie, when it is not discussed at all), no one can provide any kind of solution to the situation. The GM is not magic; he cannot solve this one by "being the GM." The problem exists at the level of the social contract, which is pretty much the biggest, most inclusive "box" of role-playing.

Your disappointment in the GM completely astonishes me. Why would your investment in this character automatically be so important to him, that it justified overriding another player's action?

Best,
Ron
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2002, 09:02:20 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Your disappointment in the GM completely astonishes me. Why would your investment in this character automatically be so important to him, that it justified overriding another player's action?


Ron, I think I did not make it clear enough that I did blame myself for the situation and that I was disappointed at the time about the GM's "hands-off" approach to the situation.

I merely asked if I was wrong. You make it sound as if I am still furious about it...

What I still believe is that the GM should have taken the situation and thought about it for a moment. We had two characters dead and the player of one of them was not going to continue the campaign anyway.
He said this literally and this was not out of spite or bad feelings. I would have altered the outcome of that situation so that the character who was part of the campaign was critically wounded...not dead.

Quote

You killed another player-character without the player's consent. Your justification? "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later."


No. If you read my post you'll find that I did not kill his character because "It gave me lots of neat stuff to do with my character, later."
I shot the character (and happened to kill her) because I felt it was a very natural thing to do when your a nervous wreck, in a wheelchair in a dark mansion and everybody seems to have forgotten you. I even seem to remember warning other players about giving the character a gun...

My statement that the character had a lot of potential had to do with the GM's decision not to have mercy on the novelist. Not with the killing of the other character.

But I fear this is something we can debate a long time, so perhaps it is best to just leave it be. It was along time ago and it just etched into my brain as one of the worst times I had roleplaying ever.

Fer
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2002, 10:15:45 AM »

It seems to me that hiding under a sheet to scare another person, when they've been left all alone in a dark house at night (and the fact that there was even a need to leave him with a gun for protection) seems to be a supremely stupid thing to do, in character or out. Did no one discuss the ramifications of this action (ie: the possibility of getting shot) when the player annouced it, as in *before* it was resolved? I hate to sound insensitive or anything, but it sounds like the player took a course of action completely at random, and the character suffered the consequences. Just a thought.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2002, 10:29:25 AM »

Hi Ferry,

With apologies, I would like to continue this discussion, briefly anyway. I understand, and I agree, that we are talking about a long-gone situation and that it has nothing to do with your feelings or perspective now. For discussion's sake, let's pretend we are talking about an entirely different person.

What interests me in your last post is that you are still talking about what the GM should have done in response to the events during play. The point of my post, which I should have emphasized more, concerned the understanding of play among everyone before it even began.

Let me know what you think about that. Or, if this is still not something you want to pursue, let me know, and I promise I really will shut up this time.

Best,
Ron
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2002, 10:54:08 AM »

Quote from: Amazing Kreskin
It seems to me that hiding under a sheet to scare another person, when they've been left all alone in a dark house at night (and the fact that there was even a need to leave him with a gun for protection) seems to be a supremely stupid thing to do, in character or out. Did no one discuss the ramifications of this action (ie: the possibility of getting shot) when the player annouced it, as in *before* it was resolved? I hate to sound insensitive or anything, but it sounds like the player took a course of action completely at random, and the character suffered the consequences. Just a thought.


I warned everybody that my character with a gun would equal disaster at some point. I don't know if the other player took this as an incentive to hide under that sheet, but I see the possibility (since the player was behaving like a clown all night).

Anyway, I think it was pretty stupid too... :)

Fer
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2002, 10:59:05 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The point of my post, which I should have emphasized more, concerned the understanding of play among everyone before it even began.


Okay, I did distill that from your post and considered pursuing that, but somehow I felt we could end up in a very "ymmv" situation.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Let me know what you think about that. Or, if this is still not something you want to pursue, let me know, and I promise I really will shut up this time.


Well, if I look at your point about the social contract, I'd have to say the fault lay there more than in the GM's actions (or perceived lack of).
I think the GM should have at least made sure everyone was in it for the same reasons. I'm very sure the two lurkers weren't in the game for the same reasons the other players or I were.

Fer
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2002, 11:04:43 AM »

Hi Ferry,

And again, with the proviso that we are talking about totally different people ...

You wrote,
"I think the GM should have at least made sure everyone was in it for the same reasons. I'm very sure the two lurkers weren't in the game for the same reasons the other players or I were."

Shouldn't everyone have made sure that everyone was in it for the same (or compatible) reasons?

Best,
Ron
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2002, 11:29:18 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Shouldn't everyone have made sure that everyone was in it for the same (or compatible) reasons?


Probably, but keep in mind I was 17 at the time and everything tended to be very "traditional" (i.e. GM controls everything, the players yell when they want to respond).

In hindsight  agree with you, but of course that doesn't change a thing about the feeling. :)
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2002, 11:51:33 AM »

Quote from: Ferry Bazelmans
Probably, but keep in mind I was 17 at the time and everything tended to be very "traditional" (i.e. GM controls everything, the players yell when they want to respond).


Well, there's your social contract. And the GM was right there doing exactly what he should. I won't be so diplomatic as Ron.

Actually, I like CoC this way. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, CoC is not for campaigns (though it might say it is). The odds are against you, and its more fun to croak anyhow. I love what happened in your story as an outsider. Lots of people dead due to stupidity. Bravo. Let's see more of it. It's the kind of thing I strive for each and every time I play (my last character died in a botched summoning of Shub-Nigurath after she went crazy due to reading the wrong tome. Most gruesome part of the game. Bwahahahaha!)

If you had wanted to modify CoC so that characters had a chance at developing a story, well, that's just classic Narrativist drift on your part. And since that wasn't discussed or in the contract, the GM was playing exactly as he should have. It was you who had improper expectations of the game as established. Your disapointment at the time was due to this improper expectation.

This is a classic case of exactly what GNS is supposed to cure.

Mike
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