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[Avalanche] - with prepared players

Started by pells, January 14, 2006, 06:16:10 PM

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I'm currently working on a rpg project, based on content and on a way to write stories. This is an example of play with players who had been playing my campaign for over ten sessions, quite aware of what I'm trying to do. This is why I call this thread for prepared players.
I've already post a thread of actual play with newcomers to what I'm trying to acheive : [Avalanche] part I - with unprepared players (very long post)

Context of the campaign
I'm trying to write a multi plots adventure with no pre written holes for the players. It is also a calendar based story instead of chapters based. Meaning no one is waiting for the characters and things happen where they are not. They have a lot of freedom as they build their own story.
For further presentation :
Here's my theory : About writing for RPG
And design : A plea for content

I've been playing with this group of five players for over a year and a half and we've been only playing this campaign. This is somehow a strange group, since they all know each others well, but not by the role playing game. I have a player who's been playing for fifteen years, two others who played when they were younger and two newbies, for whom it is their introduction to rpg. The dynamic of the group is very good, as they help other and spend at least an hour on five of play, just interacting together. They play mid level, good characters. At the beginning of the game, their characters have played 93 days of adventures. Avalanche presents a one year calendar. The session lasted about four hours and a half.

The story, my choices
I don't intend to present the events related to the game, but I'd like to present one thing, the impact of players. They were in the north and did bring a big difference into the game. There was to be a war between the humans and forest folk, the lattest ignoring they were fighting the wrong ennemy. As the scenario was written, the war would last a month before they realised their mistakes, ending their assaults. My problem was, the characters have prevented this war, revealing to the folk people that the humans were not their ennemies. So, a whole part of the web of events collapsed. One of the subplot would not happen. I would come back on my feet in a month, but with no casualty on either side. There was going to be no war, so be it. But that left me with quite a slow month, but some of the things would still happen. I almost wrote a small story for this season, outside of the main stories. That was the perfect time. But, as I'll explain after, I'm glad I didn't write down this story.
One important note about the second part, summer. Some stories, mostly in the north, take a lot of time. Humans conquer and reconstruct a long lost city while the orcs establish a camp. Plots that cover many weeks.

The game
It wasn't our typical game, but I discovered very stranges things playing it, on how my design can influence the game itself. We usually play the equivalent of one or two weeks (into the storyline).
No influence
As there is no hole defined for the players, no stories pre written for them, they get a lot of freedom. The freedom to influence any story or subplot, the way they want, taking sides. But what I found out, is that they can also choose to have no influence at all. My players already knew a lot about the north. Having been a little in the south, they spent most of their time in the northen regions. But still, there were some holes left for them, some questions still awaiting answers. They followed and introduced a main character, a very important one, to some people they already knew well. They helped him quite a lot and learned many things doing so. They refused some of the adventures (sides) I offered them (events occuring) and chose to go in a region unknown to them. There, they met new characters and learned other things. At the end of the session, one month has gone by, and most of the questions answered. But, they didn't influence, on purpose, a single thing.

Time management
My players came to manage time, almost the way I do, as a DM. They clearly understand that events occur everywhere in the world, even if they're not there. So, when they know an important event is going to happen at a certain time, they make sure to be there, at that time. But they also know when things are quiet for awhile, thus they manage their time with precision. A certain group was going north, as scouts, to explore the lost city. My players chose not to go, but knowing that this task will take time. "If anything comes out of this and they need us, we'll be inform in two weeks". As they saw long term plots, they chose to explore the world and meet characters, seeking answers, to take side later. They managed this month for their group. Much like I do myself while writing. The time is a real concern to me. It seems it is to my players too now.

What it looked like
We came up doing a lot of role playing as they encountered many characters. We also played real day to day, as they spent something like five days in a major city, or searching days in the mountains for someome. They also spent a lot of time interacting together. They traveled a lot, more than two weeks and a half, the reason behind the vast span of timeline. As a DM, I had to adjust quickly to the timeline as, in a month, many events do occur. We didn't throw a single dice. I was quite glad I didn't write a short story as I'm quite sure they wouldn't have wanted to take part in it.

Wrap Up
Well, we did nothing !! And that was [almost] true. Except, learn a lot of things. They all enjoyed the game, but agreed it was quite strange. Not our typical game. That said, they await the next one, now knowing the true faces and intentions of their ennemies.
Sébastien Pelletier
And you thought plot was in the way ?
Current project Avalanche

Tommi Brander

What do you exactly mean by a lot of role playing? Talking in character? Characterisation? Interacting with NPCs? Not using rules?

Sounds somewhat familiar, overall.


I knew while writing it that I used a confusing term.

I meant talking in characters, non agressive interaction with NPCs. As they returned to places and meet NPCs they already knew, I didin't have much to describe.

We used to do that a lot in our previous games, but this time, the players only wanted informations. They were not seeking to take sides.
Sébastien Pelletier
And you thought plot was in the way ?
Current project Avalanche


QuoteSounds somewhat familiar, overall.
I keep wondering, maybe my example didn't have enough explanations. I'll add some more.

I believe that in a regular pre written scenario, based on chapters, time is irrevelant. It doesn't really matters if your players spend three or five days doing an action. In what I'm doing, since it's calendar based, it really matters. Because where the players aren't, things still happen. There's nothing like a 'trigger' that when my players come into this specific town, something happens. So, if my players decided to spend a month, doing, let's say, a translation of an ancient manuscript, things still happen during this lapse of time. So, they have to make choices. On our previous games, sometimes, they come to a place and learn that someting had just happened a week ago. And sometimes, they would regret what they were doing, since, what they now find out is part of the past and they can not longer interfere with it. I don't think that in a regular scenario the DM comes to say 'too bad, you're too late.' Because it is chapter based, not calendar based. Things happen only where the players are. So, a big part of my job as a DM, in what I'm doing, is the management of time.

In our previous sessions, my players met most of the protagonists as to take side. They decided to help the folk people. They could have chosen to oppose them. As my adventure is multi plots, at first, players are a little disoriented. They took the first plot they encounter and then met another one. They soon came to realise they have more options. That said, they always chose one.

Back to the game
I believe my players are mostly concern by the story of the black orcs. As they saw they were building a camp, they decided to come back in a month. So, they used that time to collect informations on the past (seeking answers) but also on the future. Because they knew that when they'd be back on the orc story, they won't be getting back in any major cities for a while. They wanted to know what people there had planned for the future, as my characters knew they would miss it. At one point, they were looking for someone in the mountains. As they encountered difficulties, I ask them how many days they wanted to spend doing that. One of the players asked me if it was really important to define that. The other players said yes, we need to know. We have to get back to the orcs for the end of the month, otherwise we might miss something. So, overall, they almost look like tourists in the world.

All in all, I think this time management, done by the players, had a great influence on how the game went. And I don't think this is something you find easily in a typical game. Because, when the story is chapter based, time is of no matter. Because when there is only one plot, waiting for the players, as a hole, things happening outside of the players existence is not really a concern.
Sébastien Pelletier
And you thought plot was in the way ?
Current project Avalanche

Tommi Brander

Sebastian (wasn't it?), consider this a generic answer to your threads.

I see what you are doing. I assume you are the GM. My question is, what are you doing? Managing the calendar? Fleshing out the events?
If nonviolent interaction is considered valuable, do the rules enhance it? How? Does the calendar-play enhance it? How?

What are the players getting enjoyment from? How does the calendar-play enhance that?

You may have responded to some of those, but I have slight trouble reading your text (not an insult). Maybe you write as badly as I do.


QuoteI see what you are doing. I assume you are the GM. My question is, what are you doing? Managing the calendar? Fleshing out the events?
Managing the calendar is part of the job, but it is linked to fleshing them out. The events are described very briefly as I don't go into details. A DM will know what's happening, have some ideas, but in the end, he will flesh it out himself. So, the DM has to build a lot of stuff on the spot. His job is to build the story with the players, fleshing events depending on the character's choices. You're not telling a linear story, compiling a predefined fate. Each group will generate a different game, as the DM will have to manage another part of the web, fleshing differents events. The DM adds his own vision, his own details. Managing the timeline, means also managing some things like 'bangs'. My players are a city, it's quiet and wish to leave in the morning. Around this time (I use weeks instead of days for flexibility), a group of blacks orcs enter in the city. I decided it would be that night, as bang toward another story they didn't know of.
And he also manages the impact of his group on the game.

I'll use a quote from your thread Sim systems.
Quoteleaving specifics to be desired during play or chargen. That gives something to do
That's the idea. The DM really participates with the players.

QuoteIf nonviolent interaction is considered valuable, do the rules enhance it? How?
Yes, it's considered valuable. But, as I almost play freeform, I don't use rules to enhance it. The benefits the players get from those interactions seem enough in itself. Might be possible to use some rules, or so I guess. It really depends on the DM.

QuoteDoes the calendar-play enhance it? How?
Yes, I think so. Because things move. As players travel, not only thru space, but also time, they gain benefit from long term friendship. They have not been in a city for a month, when they entered it, they would go to the people they know, learning what has happened during their absence. Things are moving. My players left a city as a host was assembled and ready to leave. The city is full. When my players returned two weeks after, the city was empty, the men gone. To understand what's happening around them, as to be able to make their choices, they need to interact a lot with the characters.
Also, as it is played day to day, the players gets an impression of immersion. They spent five days in a city, with nothing to do. Every day took a little time of play. That said, depending on the DM's choices and the group's prefences, maybe those five days may be played in two minutes.

QuoteWhat are the players getting enjoyment from? How does the calendar-play enhance that?
I think my players enjoy their freedom a lot. They do feel we're playing their story. I don't push them in any direction. If they make mistakes, they're the only one to blame. They like the feeling they're not fiting into a predefined hole.
I also think they appreciate the movement of the story. The question to them is what are you doing with your time ?. When the group begins to miss out some important events from the past (oups, you're too late), they feel the world is moving around them.

And sorry for my english, I'm a native french speaker.

Sébastien Pelletier
And you thought plot was in the way ?
Current project Avalanche

Tommi Brander

I think your system does what it is supposed to do. I might use a very rough version of it. More important, your players are having fun.