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Author Topic: A bad session and how to make dice-rolling and 'metagaming' non-evil?  (Read 13774 times)
Warren
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« on: January 12, 2006, 07:08:36 AM »

Hello all,

I have recently joined a group through a friend at work. I don't know any of the others socially outside of the weekly Vampire campaign I joined in with to acquaint myself with them all. The group are all LARPers, male and in their early-20s and have known each other socially for quite some time. They all are pretty much immersionists, heavily into Actor stance and disliking "metagaming" as it was described to me when I joined. I've been playing with this group for about half-a-dozen sessions now. It's all Illusionist with the players having to follow what seems like a variant on a preplanned White Wolf metaplot. That's OK, I used to play in Illusionist games all the time, and it can be quite entertaining, but the most recent session was quite enlightening.

It's a modern-day Vampire game just before/during Gehenna and the group had just got hold of an ancient scroll written in something Hebrew-looking which we couldn't understand. As we were planning our next move, one the party - L - wanted to copy down the scroll for 'backup'. The GM asked "Did you bring a pen? No, Roll a die, 1-5 you've got a pen." The player did so quite happily, and got a 6, so no pen. A short amount of in-character discussion later, and we realized that there was a late-night store open across the road. "Does it have a photocopier?" The GM nodded, and L went to copy it down. The GM then informed him that as the scroll was larger than A4 he needed to make an Intelligence+Technology roll, difficulty 5, to correctly operate the photocopier. The player did so, and made sure that even afterward he double-checked that the copies were accurate. The group generally didn't seem to have any problem with this, or even obviously pick up on this as strange, but I was somewhat taken aback. Why ask for a roll? All told the "photocopier scene" took 10 minutes, rather than 2 seconds, and I could see nothing which couldn't have been skipped over quickly.

But the group seem loathe the skip anything or frame scenes in any way. During a previous session we had just got off a private plane at a remote airfield and needed to get to a big meeting in town. The GM just left us there, with no transport. After a bit of dithering, I said to the GM, "OK, I go on foot down the main road to town. As soon as I come across a passing vehicle, I hail it - shooting the driver if needed - take the car and come back to pick these guys up. Then we can all drive into town." One of the players, C, seemed quite shocked by this and made a sarcastic comment along the lines of, "Wow, half an hour of roleplaying done in two minutes." The GM did go with me, but I had to play-out each scene nevertheless. I got quite excited when it transpired that the guy who I carjacked was a drugrunner transporting a bundle of heroin, but nothing came of that in the end.

Anyway, back to last weeks session. Later, we took the scroll to a big Vampiric research lab (part of our 'parent' organization, basically) to give for translation. After a bit more IC dialogue, two of the players - L & C - wanted their characters to help translate it. Now this was a scroll that hadn't been decoded in two years of study by ancient powers, but the GM said yes and asked for an extended roll requiring 30 successes between them. Then much rolling of dice from L & C, getting 2 or 3 successes per roll until, in a few game hours, they had cracked a large proportion of it. Now part of me is screaming that this is unrealistic - an ancient scroll in a dead language translated in a few hours by somebody who had to check if he could operate a photocopier! But more worrying is that I could not see what the point of this roll was either? You know that they were going to get the required 30 successes sooner or later, and since there was no significant time-pressure then just say "Yes"?

Shortly after this, the rest of the party decided to go to a goth nightclub. I decided to have my character to cause a fuss; she's Sabbat, has disregard for Mortals but had to be very self-controlled for years previous. If this were PTA her Issue would be "Trying to find a balance between Self-Control and Anger". Being highly trained in combat (9 or 10 dice for most rolls), I was imagining a quick scene Buffy-style, where I take out a few mook bouncers and run off. In fact, it turned into a 90-minute slog of Storyteller Combat System with my character having to take down five bouncers singlehandedly whilst the rest of the party watched from the sidelines. I did so and the group ran off with the alarm bells ringing as the session ended. It turned rather dull and I was getting quite embarrassed at the end of it. One player, C, during this said - disapprovingly  - "We did have to roll a lot of dice this week", which got a lot of scowling approval.

So, the Vampire game is winding up in a few weeks, and I've offered to run Dogs in the Vineyard afterward. But I'm worried about how the players will look at all the dice rolling, as they are not used to having every roll matter. Perhaps Primetime Adventures would be a better fit, but then I'm worried that they won't like the "metagaming" aspects of it. How can I show them that roleplaying doesn't have to always equal "Actor-stance players, Illusionist GM" and that dice rolls can - must - have meaning?

Warren

(As a side point, the dice-rolling in this session illustrates exactly why I dislike systems that have unopposed dice rolls.)
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2006, 07:36:20 AM »

'kay ... you've tried it their way, and I think it's fair to say that they made few (perhaps no) concessions to how you might feel about the system, whether you would be uncomfortable with it, whether they needed to figure out a way to spoon-feed it to you.  Instead they just said very clearly "This is the way this game plays, and if you want to play this game then that's that."
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2006, 07:42:27 AM »

... and then while I was thinking my son smacked the keyboard with his race car in exactly the way that tabbed to the post button and activated it.  Which ... creepy.

So, to complete the thought:  I don't see why you should treat them any differently than they treated you.  Not in an "eye for an eye" way, but in a "we're all adults, they can and should handle this themselves." 

They're not children, and Dogs is not that hard a system.  If it butts up against their preconceived notions of what must happen then they are the only ones who can deal with that.  You do them a disservice by acting as if you'll take over that duty from them.  It's not something you can do, and if you and they believe that it's your responsibility then they, the only people who can do it won't realize that they should.

Does that make sense?  Is it just too heartless?
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2006, 08:06:00 AM »

Seriously, they gave you many, many clues that there was going to be some dissonance.  Were it me, I'd charge in and give them a chance to try out Dogs without apologies, as Tony suggested.  You may burn your bridge to the vampire game in the process, hard to tell.  If they make it a disaster, find some new people to play the dirty hippie games with.  If they are willing to give Dogs the benefit of the doubt it will address all of your concerns, which you can raise point by point with actual play examples later. 
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Warren
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2006, 08:08:57 AM »

I think I understand where you are coming from, Tony, but my issue is trying to stop them from throwing thier toys out of the pram on 'gut reaction' - Things like "Rolling how many dice? For an argument? Why can't we just role-play it out?" and give the game a fair go.

I'll also like to come up with a better way of responsing to that kind of argument that hitting them on the nose with a rolled up newpaper and saying "It will make things happen this way, like an hour of IC bickering in Vampire doesn't!", which I think isn't the best way of resolving the issue.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2006, 08:17:27 AM »

Hi Warren,

Please explain exactly why you are interested in role-playing with these particular people, using Dogs in the Vineyard or any other, similar game.

Best,
Ron
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jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2006, 08:27:15 AM »

Um.  Warren, I don't think you can control their gut reaction.  You will have to allow for trust--they need to trust you to run this new game, and you need to trust them to play.  I'm not saying it's gonna be easy, but I don't know of an alternative.  You can only say that the game is different and has its own rules.  They may not like it and it might not be the game for this group, but you'll only find out after you try and the trying may take more than one session. 

Believe me, I know about developing trust in your gaming group.  Jeez, I first started paying attention to the Forge as a defensive reaction to Ron continually bringing in these new games.  When I was going--can't we just play Swashbuckler again.

Julie

<Cross-posted with Ron.  I can only add that if you are not interested in developing a trusting group, you should consider carefully his comment.>
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daHob
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2006, 08:40:48 AM »

Are they interested in Dogs, or are you sort of 'pushing' it on them?

If they have never played anything but traditional sim/illusionist games, they might very well get frustrated with Dogs unless you have preped them. A lot of gamers have very rigid ideas about what rpgs 'are'. If they haven't expressed a desire to try out something new, it might be a rough gaming session. My attempt to introduce Capes to my regular gaming group ended with people looking at me like I had grow a second head and the concensus that Capes wasn't even an  RPG.

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Steve
Warren
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2006, 09:21:30 AM »

Hello all.

Thanks for your comments. I'm interested in getting a group with these people as they are fun to be around, but also, I honestly believe that they are good roleplayers - C's characterisation skills are spot on, L & S are creative and entertaining and so on. I think the thing is that sim/illusionist games are all they know (barring LARPs) and they have been 'brought up' with the White Wolf Storytelling myth - "Look at our shiny metaplot! Follow the GM's story! If you like rolling dice, you are no better than a AD&D munchkin powergamer! Thinking outout your character isn't roleplaying!" etc. Given an open mind, I think they will have a blast with Dogs/PTA/etc.

I think Steve has hit it on the head - I am kind of 'pushing' Dogs on them, and I was wondering if there is any prep I could do that would mitigate any frustration. Julie is correct in pointing that developing trust is the key; but as I am a newbie to this group I don't think that this is going to be easy to engender.

In comparision, I'm also a member of a wargames club (that has no crossover with this group). This lot are mostly older and play occasional games of very heavily Gamist AD&D (in a very Pawn Stance - it's "The Barbarian" rather than "Cebo", for example). I have a blast with them. Gamist isn't my cup of tea, but it's functional! When I introduced those guys to a one-off Dogs game, it went very well, and they want to play again. It's just a pity that it's near-impossible to arrange a regular games with those guys.

Thanks,
Warren
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coffeestain
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2006, 09:35:34 AM »

Warren,

I think you're going about this completely backward.  I'd suggest building the trust with your group and then introducing them to the games you enjoy (or not introduce them) using that trust as a foundation.  If you're not enjoying the game you're playing in with them, build that trust over movies, or dinner, or cards.  It seems to me that you've got a really precarious foundation right now to be pushing anything onto them.  And it may be wise to consider the fact that you can't game with these people, even though they're fun to be around.

You try creating some crossover between this group and your wargames club group.

Regards,
Daniel
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Tommi Brander
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2006, 09:37:29 AM »

I have kind of the same problem. A bit by bit I am posting things about conflict resolution, beliefs, instincts and traits (yes, it is BW), and talking about them. The same for reward cycles and such. And rules that enforce something more than genre.

Talk with them. It will generally help.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2006, 09:41:05 AM »

Oh geez.

You're free to do as you wish, and I encourage you to follow your own social standards for whatever it is you end up doing.

But here is my advice: forget it. This is the very last group, under any circumstances, that I would bring Narrativist-heavy games to. And your specific circumstances, i.e. the new guy who clearly "couldn't play right," are the last I would choose for introducing any new game to a group. It seems like the most focused recipe for disaster I've seen in a long time.

I want them to like me and the way I want to play. They don't seem to like either? OK! I want to teach them to like me and the way I want to play!

My advice may well be overridden by any number of positive qualifiers, and there are plenty of people who will slap you on the back and say "You never know unless you try!" Feel free to listen to them instead.

Advice for this discussion: your thread title describes the experience as a "bad session." Really ... bad for whom? Consider that very carefully.

Best,
Ron
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pells
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2006, 10:40:33 AM »

From what I understand, your main concern is with the use of the system, the use of useless dice rolls, and its effect on the pace of the game. If you're going to be a DM with them, I believe that whatever the game is, the pace of the game would be different anyway. I don't think you'll spend ten minutes over a photocopy and an hour and half over a meaningless combat. In your game, I guess they'll throw less dices, maybe five instead of hundreds, but meaningfull ones. Even a vampire game I suppose. This will bring a big difference, anyway.
As not being an illusionist as a DM, if that's what you want to do, I don't see why it wouldn't work.
Bringing out a new game might 'frighten' them, but anyhow, your game won't look like the one you just described if you don't call for dice rolls as often as they are used to.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2006, 10:47:01 AM »

Hi Warren,

Quote
Things like "Rolling how many dice? For an argument? Why can't we just role-play it out?" and give the game a fair go.

Um, this IS the same group of folks that just made a dice roll for operating a photocopier, right?  I suspect that what they want from games and what you want is very, very, very different.  I'm sure they might be great people, but perhaps you should consider finding other folks to roleplay with?  I have many friends who I hang out with, but our tastes in music aren't the same, so we don't go to the same concerts- I think the same situation probably applies here.

Chris
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dindenver
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« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2006, 11:07:00 AM »

Hi!
  It sounds like the ST has changed their style since you appeared... The players are complaining about rolling lots of dice, maybe your combat heavy character is encouraging the ST to make YOU roll for non-combat skills in order to show you the error of your ways...
  As far as system, if these guys like to "roleplay" every situation to every minute detail, maybe they need to play GURPS. The character time sheets would serve these guys well.
  I think that maybe, in the guise of game designer, you need to explain metagaming. Going to go carjack a car is not metagaming. Metagaming is standing around waiting for something to happen because the ST will find a way to get you all into town.
  All in all, if they are actually open to you running a game, pick the game you like the most and your enthusiasm will carry over into the group. If you don't feel that there is trust within your group (you of them, them of you), run something they have played before so you can gauge each other's play styles/personalities.
  Good luck man, sounds like this group could go either way.
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