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Author Topic: [Dreamation WGP] Two-Fisted President Balks!  (Read 7386 times)
Michael S. Miller
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« on: January 30, 2006, 03:59:29 AM »

A strange thing happened in one of the With Great Power… sessions I ran at Dreamation ’06. The game was scheduled to start at 2pm on Friday, but due to some organizations mishapes, we didn’t really get underway until closer to 2:30. I had four players: Alexander Newman (posts as Iskander), Luke Crane (posts as abzu), a fellow named Alex (who I’d never seen before), and a guy named Jon. Jon has played in a number of indie games I’ve run at previous conventions, including The Agency, Discernment, and InSpectres. In those sessions, Jon has said that he’s enjoyed himself, and blithely gone on to his next event. After the WGP game, I’m not sure that I’ll ever see him at my table again.

The scenario I was running is called “They Came From Beyond” and deals with a massive alien invasion. I wanted this scenario to focus specifically on the endgame of WGP, so I set up that the invasion storyline was contained in a 4-issue limited series, but that our imaginary comic book reader had only found issues 3 and 4 in the back issue bin, so that’s the story we would tell.

When handing out characters, Jon chose the President of the United States. As I’d written the character, he had been Secretary of Housing & Urban Development until the attack, when the President and the rest of the cabinet had been wiped out. After everyone had chosen characters, I gave each of them a chance to describe some of the stress their character had come under in the first 2 issues of the limited series, as a way letting the players customize, and emotionally invest in, their characters.

Jon described his character as a retired football player-turned-politician, who’s been battling the invasion with his two fists—tackling aliens, wading through scores of enemy troopers and beating them down personally. I was getting visuals from the Flash Gordon movie with the Queen soundtrack. Later, Luke quipped that this was the President as played by Wesley Snipes. In retrospect, this should have been my first red flag that something was wrong.

We got down to gaming, played out an enrichment scene for everyone, plus an initial conflict scene. The aliens captured Jon’s President at the end of that scene. After another round of enrichment scenes, we start the big final conflict. The President is on board the alien mother ship. They’ve taken the nuclear football from him, and are working at unlocking the codes to fire the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal back at the U.S. Those are my Stakes for the conflict scene: If I win, the aliens will nuke North America. If Jon wins, he’ll destroy the alien Hive Mind and the mother ship.

We get down to playing the cards. The way WGP is built is that the story can’t end until all the spaces on the Story Arc are filled, and players can only fill spaces on the Story Arc when they LOSE a conflict. By the time we’ve gotten down to just Jon’s page of conflict and Alexander’s page, there is still one space open on the Story Arc. In order to defeat the alien’s plan, one of them is going to have lose, and the other one has to win.

Jon is playing very, very well. The strategy of WGP is not overly complex once you see it in action. He has an ace in each of the four suits on his side of the conflict. It doesn’t get better than this. Each panel, I have to use one of my rapidly-diminishing wild cards to cancel one of his aces just to avoid losing myself.

The timeslot is scheduled to end at 6pm, but it’s nearly 6:30 and we’re still playing. I say to Jon that if he doesn’t yeild, I don’t know that I have the cards to continue to oppose both him and Alexander. If I’m forced to yield to one of them before one of them yeilds, the Story Arc won’t be filled and the story won’t be over. Although they’ll win their Stakes (destroying the mother ship in this case), the alien invasion itself will not be thwarted. Luke shouts out, “Just do it. Just yield. Just nuke North America!”

This is when Jon flips out. He says something like “No. I’m just gonna go. I have four aces and I cannot lose! I won’t. This is stupid. It’s gonna take all night.” He begins to gather his stuff. I’m a little stunned. Luke responds with “You can’t just quit. Finish it. You yield, Alexander wins, and the invasion is squashed.” I say “You’ll lose North America, but you’ll save the world!”

Jon’s reply: “Fine. Whatever. I yield.” He drops his cards on the table. I immediately yeild to Alexander, who devastates the alien Plan. The missiles fly, taking the mother ship out in the nuclear holocaust unleashed on North America. The day is saved, but at great cost: Just the kind of story I designed the game for.

I believe Jon just grabs his stuff and goes. I somehow doubt I’ll see him at another WGP game.

What happened? It’s hard to say. My theory is Total Thematic Disconnect. With Great Power… is a game with a hard-wired theme: Anything worth doing is worth suffering for. In order to achieve anything in the game, you have to cause something else to suffer. There is no clean, easily-won victory in WGP. From his descriptions of his two-fisted President wading unharmed through hordes of alien troopers, and his lukewarm descriptions of his Aspects’ suffering, I’m pretty sure that Jon was looking for cost-free wish fulfillment. That game rules don’t make that possible. So, confronted with a theme that he didn’t believe in, he balked and tried to leave. Makes sense to me.

Luke and Alexander were there. I welcome their insights. Andrew Morris and Joshua Newman played Discernment with Jon and I at Dreamation ’05, if they have any relevant recollections. Any other comments are appreciated.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2006, 05:47:53 AM »

Hello,

As a not-especially-relevant side comment, I'm finding the content a bit extreme for a spandex supers game. Maybe a latter-day graphic novel type thing.

And ... well, if I were Jon ...

Quote
it’s nearly 6:30 and we’re still playing. I say to Jon that if he doesn’t yeild, I don’t know that I have the cards to continue to oppose both him and Alexander. If I’m forced to yield to one of them before one of them yeilds, the Story Arc won’t be filled and the story won’t be over. Although they’ll win their Stakes (destroying the mother ship in this case), the alien invasion itself will not be thwarted. Luke shouts out, “Just do it. Just yield. Just nuke North America!”


... I wouldn't like being told, effectively, that I have to do X this instant, young man, or screw it all up for everyone else. (a) There's the time constraint, and so everyone's got this kind of "do it right and get it over with" vibe hitting the guy, and then (b) Luke shouts out 'do it this way' ... I mean, I know that this is classic Abzu enthusiasm, and it's very encouraging when Luke is the GM or when you know that he's from New York really engaged in what's going on.

But if that's not a perceived instance of being bullied to finish up like we say you should, and to do it right now, then there must be some other dynamic going on that I'm not seeing in your post. I'm not sure any particular Creative Agenda or refuse-to-lose attitude is indicated, at least, not based on what you've presented.

Best,
Ron
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Iskander
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Alexander Newman


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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2006, 05:52:20 AM »

Hey, Michael,

For the record, I had a great time with WGP...:They Came From Beyond!. It was really clear how the game played (although I did have the advantage of having read it in advance), and I completely glommed onto the idea that you get killed, transformed or whatever and the game's not over for you: you're in a Silver Age comic book, so, of course you have a comeback. Maybe it comes from seeing Piotr Rasputin die so many times, and still be the hunky metal cutie that he is.

I think there's a little relevant detail missing... for the final conflict (IIRC - you still have the sheet?)
Alexander / Mnemonic - Transcend to an overmind, crushing the hive vs. all human minds are snuffed out. Permanently.
Luke / Prof. Phase (becoming an alien hybrid) - Demonstrate the value of humanity to Mnemonic, making him benevolent overmind vs. Mnemonic becomes an evil dictatorial overmind.
Alex - Delta does something suitably heroic vs. Delta gets re-integrated into the Hive Mind.
John / The Presinator - He nukes the ship vs. the Hive nuke North America.

Here's how I remember it going down: you quickly yielded to Luke's hand: he was unbeatable, and the stakes weren't too bad from your perspective. My small-time crook, if he transcended, would be warm and fuzzy. Oh, joy. Luke, (correct me) was planning to sap as many cards as he could from Michael and then yield, but overplayed his hand, and brought out the big guns too soon. (Now that I would have dug. Go evil overmind!)

That left us with three ongoing conflicts at the table, and we all knew their scope: personal (Alex), continental (John), universal (Alexander). I was prolonging my conflict as long as possible to see if either Alex or John would yield and allow humanity to be saved, failing that, my thought was that it would be an appropriate and representative thematic statement if, Delta and The Presinator won their obdurate victories, the minds of all humanity were snuffed out. I was fine with that (and I'm pretty sure Luke would have been, too).

In the midst of the conflict - before it got a little excited - Luke and I were reiterating that we had to lose one conflict between the three of us, and that my stakes were the fate of all humanity, so it came down to Alex and John. Niether of whom could yield. I say that deliberately. I don't think either of them could yield. So Luke and I (and I was as much a participant as Luke) had to break the Social Contract and bully one of the others into yielding, if we wanted to 'win' the whole scenario, and not walk away from the table as drooling, mindless hive-fodder. I think it would have been very obviously cruel to bully Alex, and possibly not successful, but John - older, had gamed with you before (viz. you recognised him and knew his name at the start of the scenario) - seemed to be the most appropriate target of the two.

So we bullied him into yielding.

I'm not particularly proud of that, and I don't think your expectations of future play with John are mistaken, sorry. I would have been quite happy to yield, if only to devastate the plan, although in terms of pure story, I wanted the extinction of humankinds' minds to happen on the last page - a coda to the Presinator's futile victory, and I wasn't sure how we could make that happen. Is it just that I would be required to trust your narration? (Which I realise now, I found distasteful, although I should have recognised and used the strength of the pencilling mechanic).

I was pretty stunned that neither of them could see the advantage in yielding, and that to do so was not to lose. I don't know if anything you could have said would have changed the way it played out. I am very much minded of Ron's recent remarks. I don't think John was capable of yielding one little bit. I don't think Alex was either, but I think he was already so obviously protecting himself from dangerous ideas and play modes (by adopting the Vox Shatner when speaking as Delta) that we acknowledged that he was - on some foofy level - at risk of harm, and looked after him somewhate.

On another level, it was really interesting how the game mechanics exposed a major difference in player priorities. Luke and I wanted to 'win' the whole mini-series, John and Alex wanted their guys to win, and the two goals were not compatible.
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

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Iskander
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Alexander Newman


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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2006, 05:55:21 AM »

Ron, I wholeheartedly agree that our bullying pushed him into what amounted to a temper-tantrum. However, the preceding forty minutes of play, where it was absolutely explicit that unless he yielded, Humanity would cease to exist suggest there was more at work. I don't remember John even acknowledging that a larger goal might exist, or contemplating for a second that he might want to yield, despite having a great fist of cards, in order to achieve a satisfying resolution.

Further, I think he was the only person worried about time. I sure as hell wasn't. Game slots at Dreamation had 2 hour hiati between them.
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Kat Miller
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2006, 06:39:03 AM »

Wow.

I think this says a lot

In the midst of the conflict - before it got a little excited - Luke and I were reiterating that we had to lose one conflict between the three of us, and that my stakes were the fate of all humanity, so it came down to Alex and John. Niether of whom could yield. I say that deliberately. I don't think either of them could yield. So Luke and I (and I was as much a participant as Luke) had to break the Social Contract and bully one of the others into yielding, if we wanted to 'win' the whole scenario, and not walk away from the table as drooling, mindless hive-fodder. I think it would have been very obviously cruel to bully Alex, and possibly not successful, but John - older, had gamed with you before (viz. you recognised him and knew his name at the start of the scenario) - seemed to be the most appropriate target of the two.

So we bullied him into yielding.

This game addresses to spots
1-Look what happens when the social contract is broken
2-In the Endgame with Stakes so Very High can you have a satisfying end without comprimise? 

Addressing point 1.
If there are problems in the social contract then there are going to be problems in the game, that doesn't mean that there is a problem in the game's design.  It looks like Michael was feeling pressured to compromise and John was forced to compromise for a "satisfactory ending"  I'm still for giving them ending they earn.  Don't allow one player to be bullied into yealing because very player needs to have equal rights in the game. 

If it looks like the game is going into overtime- STOP and assess as Gm and Players.  "We're going into over time here, I have the time to continue how does everyone else feel?" That takes the time presure off.  maybe John did have a place to go and Luke could have finished his hand for him-as by that time Luke's conflict scene was over.  Maybe John just wouldn't have been concerned with the time and niether would you.

Never bully a player in to yeilding.  As I recall it was Endgame and the stakes were extreem but you also had control over your side of the stakes.  Alex and Alexander both felt that they could not yeild and we know John felt he couldn't either.  But if there is only one way to end the game in a satifying manner then something is very wrong.  I think it may have been in the stakes.

Which brings up another point-
Unless the Mind of Humanity was an Aspect.  I'm not sure that you should have had the power to transform it forever.
If Iskander looses his stakes than the Mind of humanity might be lost but not forever.

do we have a provision for changing stakes? 
If john can alter his stakes after Iskander yeilds- The Mind of Humanity is now one with the hive but still in a transitory state, John can then switch his stakes to blowing the hivemind instead of blowing the mothership-with the agreement of the table- this might eleviate some trouble.

-kat
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kat Miller
Iskander
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Alexander Newman


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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2006, 07:01:18 AM »

Excellent points, Kat. I agree - none of this points to a game design problem. More of a what happens when we sit down at a mixed convention table problem. I hasten to add that I didn't identify what we had done as bullying until afterwards, but it was a very uncomfortable minute or two.

I wonder if the very stakes set hadn't already de-protagonised John and Alex, given that they were more engaged in the story as individuals than as a group of players? Consider that Luke and my characters were explicitly, mechanically tied together: bad things happened to my protagonist when Luke lost, and Luke sacrificed Portia's humanity for Mnemonic. But the other two had rather dislocated struggles (although Alex could have operated Delta on a more mental level to tie into the Phase/Mnemonic action). The Presinator was busy Will Smithing his way through aliens, left and right, and Delta was doing much the same, basically heedless of the larger picture: the comic book as a whole.

We got Luke's stakes to tie in well with mine: benevolent vs. malevolent overmind were stakes for him that I could gladly live with. I was also ridiculously excited by my stakes: transcendence vs. mind-death of all humankind were great! I could go with either, and be very happy (Dark Phoenix, much?) In my enthusiasm, I think I lost sight of the fact that they were really too high: all humanity included another player, and his conflict - in the grand scheme of things - didn't matter any more. I could see dozens of ways in which is would be cool to be the President of the United States of Glowing-in-the-Dark, and how that would be a classic comic-book agony point for him, as he fights to put his ravaged country back together.

Anyway, I think you're bang on: the stakes as I remember them were "the minds of all humanity are snuffed out in an instant", which lodged in my brain as permanent and universal. Of course, if I had remembered that that didn't include the Presinator or Delta, I might have yielded sooner and allowed them to make what satisfyingly heroic conclusion they could. Oops. Me bad.
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2006, 07:16:35 AM »

I'm agreeing with Kat's diagnosis (as usual), first of all. I can't say if her specific mechanic fixes would've avoided the blowup - they rarely do when high-level Social Contract stuff hits the fan -- but sometimes such workarounds really do work.

I was also ridiculously excited by my stakes....In my enthusiasm, I think I lost sight of the fact that they were really too high: all humanity included another player, and his conflict - in the grand scheme of things - didn't matter any more.

Yeah, I think this is the key, actually. To rewind:

the preceding forty minutes of play [during which]it was absolutely explicit that unless he yielded, Humanity would cease to exist .... I don't remember John even acknowledging that a larger goal might exist, or contemplating for a second that he might want to yield, despite having a great fist of cards, in order to achieve a satisfying resolution.

I'm going to start talking like a college sophomore fresh out of Forge 101 (Prof. Edwards; TAs Baker, Lower-Basch, Lehman; TuTh2pm), but maybe taking it back to basics may help here:

Since humanity only ceases to exist in the context of the game's fiction (SIS, whatever), and not as a real, undeniable possibility, you can't just tell the other player, "hey, you have to value All Humanity over North America," because what you're saying is actually, "You have to agree that [this thing I staked] is more important than [this thing that you staked]." Neither of you is being more or less irrational than the other in insisting his stakes are the more important ones.

And what really turns the screw is that you decided to define your stakes as something that included all of his stakes as a mere subset, without making sure he was cool with that. That put him in the position of, "if I lose, I lose; but if Alex loses, I lose too; and Alex needs me to lose or he'll lose..." Where's the heroic choice, the conscious Silver Age self-sacrifice, in that? It seems deprotagonizing.

(It's the equivalent, of, say, running two simultaneous conflicts in Dogs in the Vineyard (which I think the rules explicitly forbid) where you say, "my stakes are, if I win, I redeem the Steward's daughter, and if I lose, she is damned" and then I say, "if I win, I redeem everyone in town but the Steward's daughter, and if I lose, everyone dies, including the Steward's daughter.)

In that light, I'm not sure it is self-evident that "a larger goal [did] exist" or that John's yielding would produce "a satisfying resolution": Larger and more satisfying for you, clearly not for him.

Of course such long-distance diagnosis is notoriously tricky, and I may well be wrong. But I can take away two conclusions for my own gaming and game design:

1) Never agree to stakes that you, the real person, cannot bear to lose: If losing X would break your ability to get anything out of the game, don't put yourself in a position to lose X.

2) Game-breaking social contract issues are rarely about explicitly transgressive content (e.g. rape, child abuse) and more often about particular pieces of the fiction ("SIS)" that one player values highly but other players do not.
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Marhault
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2006, 07:19:19 AM »

It seems possible that the problem doesn't lie in the feedback he received from you guys, but rather the fact that Alexander's stakes made his seem meaningless.  Who cares if North America gets nuked, if all of humanity gets mindwiped?  I mean, if it were me,  I'd be pissed at getting forced into the situation mechanically, not by the other players shouting advice at me.  Jon was clearly trying to save people, and he was put in a position where he was forced to be responsible for massive casualties because of a set of stakes that somebody else made.

It sounds like a Scale problem to me.  The guy with the Global Scale overpowered the story, and the guy operating at National Scale didn't like it.  What were the Aspects and their Scales that were involved exactly?  (If this is way off, it's because I haven't finished reading the rules yet.)

Edit:  Cross posted with Islander.  Stakes issue. . .
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Iskander
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Alexander Newman


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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2006, 07:28:15 AM »

And what really turns the screw is that you decided to define your stakes as something that included all of his stakes as a mere subset, without making sure he was cool with that. That put him in the position of, "if I lose, I lose; but if Alexander loses, I lose too; and Alexander needs me to lose or he'll lose..." Where's the heroic choice, the conscious Silver Age self-sacrifice, in that? It seems deprotagonizing. [Edited to fix names. I'm tetrasyllabic.]

Let's talk about this bit for a moment.

How and when does it become my responsibility as a player to refuse stakes proposed by the GM-player that we both like (as, I think, did Luke), but that de-protagonise another player. If I'm totally engaged in my character's struggle at that point - and I was pretty fervently engaged in Mnemonic's struggle - how do we negotiate that? It's taken me this long to realise the stakes were even a problem. Did I buy into the villain's stakes too much?

I ask in the honest spirit of enquiry, not defensively: we bullied him, and it was wrong. How do we stop ourselves getting to the point where enthusiastic players get to bully others.

A possibly-relevant datapoint: I was laid off from my job of six years two days before this, and my residency in the country (and with my same-sex partner) jeopardised. I was in a pretty world-destroying mood.
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Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
TheTris
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2006, 07:50:49 AM »

Hmmm....while his reaction wasn't great, I can see exactly why he left the table feeling upset.

In his place I would have felt "You've made my story completely irrelevant"

AND

"There is a competative card game element here, and I'm winning.  Then I get told I have to throw my hand in, because that lets someone else win"

I think that's two dischords just there.  If the whole game is about the story, you've made his contribution mean very little.  If there is supposed to be a card-play element, you've told him that there is, and then told him "even though you have a great hand, you have to lose."

Now there may well have been an element of viscerial fantasy-fulfillment in the character he played, which would only add to the distaste he must have felt having to yield.  But even if there wasn't such an element, I think the situation was set up to make him feel robbed of his participation.  He didn't get his story choice - it was forced on him.  He didn't get to play his cool hand - he was told to throw it.

If you do see him again, perhaps at the crucial point, he will refuse all stakes except "If I fail, everyone in the universe ever lives in a lake of boiling sulphur and terrible pain, without hope or chance of redemption, without love, and without joy, more horrible than anything anyone can imagine"  That way, he gets to take part.  But I'm not sure it would be a good thing for him to do, as far as the rest of the group was concerned.
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Kat Miller
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2006, 08:09:35 AM »

Never bully a player in to yeilding.

Ok I was talking to the GM and future GMs of WGP when I said that.

That Iskander and Luke felt the need to Pressure John who felt pressured enough to flake out - Screams that there is a problem at the table that the GM is not addressing.  

I did not mean to imply that Iskander or Luke were Bullies or that they did anything wrong as players.   There was an awkward position. Msm, Alex, John, Iskander and Luke were all in it.  X happened. msm feels bad about X happening and whats to know what he could have done or might have missed to keep x from happening again.

I like playing with Iskander and Luke, and have felt the urge to pressure other players in different games.

Let's talk about this bit for a moment.

How and when does it become my responsibility as a player to refuse stakes proposed by the GM-player that we both like (as, I think, did Luke), but that de-protagonise another player. If I'm totally engaged in my character's struggle at that point - and I was pretty fervently engaged in Mnemonic's struggle - how do we negotiate that? It's taken me this long to realise the stakes were even a problem. Did I buy into the villain's stakes too much?

I ask in the honest spirit of enquiry, not defensively: we bullied him, and it was wrong. How do we stop ourselves getting to the point where enthusiastic players get to bully others.

It is not your responsilbility to refuse stakes proposed by the GM.  If a set of stakes deprotagonizes another player at the table, then the GM or the Deprotaonized player should say something.  

I think Mike also is looking for the pressure point in the game.  Because you guys were just reacting to something-what was that something and how can it be avoided in the future.

Mike admitted later that he chose to yeild to Luke because he was feeling time pressure.
But that act of yeilding also forced the three players into a difficult situation.  I don't think John did anything wrong and even with the admitted "bullying" I don't think Iskander or Luke or Alex did anything wrong.  As GM I think Mike should have adressed the social pressure being placed on John.  

I might be wrong but I think Mike also felt that you guys couldn't win if John didn't yeild.   That is a big problem.  What I know about Mike is that he too would feel cheated if you guys couldn't win.  

WGP as I have come to know it is not a single solution game, its supposed to embrace all possibilities.  In my earlier post I think I've pointed out possible fixes.  

I'd like to hear what Mike has to say about the stakes issue.

-kat

  
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kat Miller
Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2006, 08:34:32 AM »

Honest spirit of inquiry, check. I'd love to figure out this very thing for my revision of apocalypse girl and it's hard, because when I say

Never agree to stakes that you, the real person, cannot bear to lose...

that "agree to" includes your consent, even if implied by your silence, to stakes that other players negotiate between themselves. (Lumpley Principle: nothing "really happened" until we all agree it does). But if Player A and Player B are really clicking on something, how does Player C say "wait, you're going to break my ability to participate if you keep on down that road?" As you ask, quite rightly,

How and when does it become my responsibility as a player to refuse stakes proposed by the GM-player that we both like...but that de-protagonise another player[?]

To which Kat answers, sensibly,

It is not your responsilbility to refuse stakes proposed by the GM.  If a set of stakes deprotagonizes another player at the table, then the GM or the Deprotaonized player should say something.

But, darn it, I think she's being sensible but not-quite-right. (In part because I've played mostly GMless games for the last year). Let me recalibrate and propose

1) You are the only person who knows what is essential or intolerable for you. The other players are not mind-readers and you cannot blame them for not knowing what you need. If you object to something, it is your responsibility to tell the other players.

But, at the same time:

2) You are all responsible for each other. You need to listen to what everyone is saying -- especially if they are not saying it out loud. You are not a mind-reader, and you can never know for sure what another person wants or needs, but unhappy people usually give plenty of signals, and you are obligated to watch for them.
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Supplanter
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2006, 08:43:45 AM »

I see two problems here: The first is a creative agenda problem (pace Ron). Narrativism is the un-Forced (in the technical sense) creation of theme. A story about a President of the United States who *just can't make himself nuke the United States despite the consequences for the rest of the world* has powerfully created theme.

And the other guys at the table, including the GM, wouldn't let him do it. The rest of you had decided *for* Jon what theme he ought to by gum create.

That problem's been well-hashed out in the previous messages. I'd only add that if the game is structured so that by the time you come to the climax one player "has" to answer the thematic question a certain way, then it *is* a design problem.

The second problem is the initial impulse, slow to die throughout the thread, to explain things in terms of the outsider's (Jon's) weakness:

What happened? It’s hard to say. My theory is Total Thematic Disconnect. With Great Power… is a game with a hard-wired theme: Anything worth doing is worth suffering for. In order to achieve anything in the game, you have to cause something else to suffer. There is no clean, easily-won victory in WGP. From his descriptions of his two-fisted President wading unharmed through hordes of alien troopers, and his lukewarm descriptions of his Aspects’ suffering, I’m pretty sure that Jon was looking for cost-free wish fulfillment. That game rules don’t make that possible. So, confronted with a theme that he didn’t believe in, he balked and tried to leave. Makes sense to me.

I was pretty stunned that neither of them could see the advantage in yielding, and that to do so was not to lose. I don't know if anything you could have said would have changed the way it played out. I am very much minded of Ron's recent remarks. I don't think John was capable of yielding one little bit. I don't think Alex was either, but I think he was already so obviously protecting himself from dangerous ideas and play modes (by adopting the Vox Shatner when speaking as Delta) that we acknowledged that he was - on some foofy level - at risk of harm, and looked after him somewhate.

On another level, it was really interesting how the game mechanics exposed a major difference in player priorities. Luke and I wanted to 'win' the whole mini-series, John and Alex wanted their guys to win, and the two goals were not compatible.

This isn't analysis; it's excuse-making. It's scapegoating. It's pathologizing the guy from Not the People. I recognize that this thread eventually got past it, but it's a tendency that should give people pause.

Best,


Jim
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2006, 08:50:33 AM »

What Jim said, both parts.

Best,
Ron
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2006, 09:15:52 AM »

I'd like to see what Luke has to say on what happened.

I wasn't there myself, but my understanding is that Jon tried to leave the game before any of the pressure from the other players started. That faced with the realization that the choice was between the utter destruction of humanity or destroying North America, he, as a player, felt the need to escape the situation.

This may very well be a paraphrase, but the quote that was passed along to me:

"This is going to take all night. It's pointless to continue."

Again, my second-hand understanding: It was at that point that Alexander and Luke exerted pressure on John to stay and to yield.
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