*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 20, 2019, 03:03:18 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: [Over the Edge] Killing the Dilemma  (Read 6830 times)
Joel P. Shempert
Member

Posts: 451


WWW
« on: March 11, 2006, 08:58:18 AM »

Hi, my name's Joel, sometime Forge lurker and varyingly credulous Big Model neophyte. I was away from studying the Theory for awhile, but it worked its way back into my brain (just in time for the Theory forums to close!), so I'm trying to get into more actively posting, that I might better understand the theoretical concepts, my own play, what I want and how to get it, et al.

So, I thought I'd solicit some analysis/advice on a recent play incident. I've been running an Over the Edge campaign for some time now, and I've got this particular player who from day one has been hard to work with. He's playing, as he tends to, a real jackass, and I'm not saying a jerk can't be a cool or viable character, but his particular brand of asshat is so. . .one-note. I partially blame the tradition of D&D alignment, which I've found promotes a very tunnel-vision, "your character must always and ever behave in this manner and NO OTHER" mentality. Certainly with this guy, at any rate.

The big difficulty is not merely that I don't like, aesthetically, his character portrayal (though I don't, for sure), it's that he seems to engage in disruptive play purposefully and regularly. He makes unlikeable characters and puts them at odds with others, not out of any kind of meaningful conflict, just sheer cussedness and impishness on both a character and player level. His enjoyment of the game seems to be derived from "messing with" everyone, whether through all-out "PVP," or non-combat belligerence, or a kind of practical joking style of play, kind of hard to describe. If you try to talk to him about it, he kind of throws up his hands in innocent denial, or else falls back to the old staple "That's just what my character would do."

His adversarial play style also has a defensive side, a kind of suspicious "you're trying to put one over on me but I won't let you" stance which ranges from "You want to impress me with that chool character or bit of plot or whatever, but it won't work, I'll just be apathetic and like 'eh'" to a paranoid "ooh, this new plot element MUST be a trick." Which is my main problem in this instance of play. SO enough with this longwinded introduction. :)

His character is a sneak thief who's come to the game's fictional island nation in search of the other half of a mysterious multifaceted stone he nicked, and I've been trying to give him lots of intrigue as he conducts his investigation. He's a "work for the highest bidder" kind of guy, so I got him hired by a minor mafioso. Meanwhile, Starwalk, an agent of a society of sewer-dwellers called Lurkers, has been courting his allegiance, stepping out of the shadows to talk to him, getting him out of a number of tight scrapes, etc. But in the absence of much actual "buying power," she's had limited success, and with the player's "can't drop my veneer of cool by actually enjoying something you portray" attitude, I have a had time telling if the character actually likes Starwalk or not.

Well, I accelerated the plotline a bit, and brought the thief, Gaelinar, to this "High Council of the Lurkers" where the course for their underground nation being decided. I'd decided Gaelinar's stone has significance to the Lurkers, which is why Starwalk's so convinced he can/must help them. Also the Lurkers, being smelly Mole People, need liasons of some sort to wield power in the surface society. So three views pwer presented: Isolationists, who want to stay, well, lurking in the shadows because it's evil and scary out there (these people, I decided, were driven underground when facists--the current ones--took over the island 60 years ago), Integrationists, who've been out and about and insist it's really not so bad anymore, and we should come out into the light, and Militarists, who say they've been trampled and persecuted too long, now it's our day to grab a piece of the pie. Starwalk is an Integrationist. Gaelinar was brought forth as a possible ally, and offered rich reward by the Lurker King and Queen, and decided tentatively to support Starwalk.

So far so good. What I was really hoping to do was present a moral delimma. I don't pretend to have a complete graps of the Theory, but I have been able to recognize my own play goals as mostly Narrativist, and wondered how I can move in that direction in my games. I thought I'd try a real "what does this say about my character" poser, an "I want both but can only choose one" type scenario. So him siding with Starwalk initially is just what I hoped for. Now he's affirmed some degree of friendship tie or at least the comradeship of a business arrangement. He's staked his loyalty here, he's chosen a side. I hoped to create some tension within his character premise of "I work for whoever offers the greatest benefit/reward."

So I had the militarist leader approach him, offer greater reward if he will betray Starwalk, direct their planned shadow war against surface society, and assist in the planned coup against the lurker leadership. I figured I was speaking Gaelinar's language, i'e' dollar signs, plus his character's a vicious killer and all-around remorseless bastard. So NOW we see what he's made of. Will he stab Starwalk, who's done nothing but help him (out of death or imprisonment, no less), who's put her trust in him, who believes he can be something good and noble, in the back? Just how far is he willing to go in the pursuit of "lookin' out for number one?"

Well, he turned down the guy. Without blinking. Not because he was too loyal to his friend, but because he considered the guy incompetent. He got the impression, quite contrary to my intention, that the dude was simply gonna storm the Surface, march on D'aubainne manor, the Streets Will Flow with the Blood of the Infidels, etc. etc. Totally deflated me. I was quite prepared for him to take either side, based on his character's values. But this just killed the dilemma. I tried to explain, through the militarist character, that that wasn't the plan at all, that they intended to wage a shadow war and needed Gaelinar to do it (since ostensibly, he's a super-proficient thief, though his player runs him about as subtle as a sledgehammer in the face). I even had him demonstrate his group's power and ability, at a hand-signal a score of people in the gathering slipped forward and returned the secret salute, then elted back into the crowd. But Gaelinar and his player weren't biting. I let it drop and ended the session. But I'm just so disappointed. I wanted to do this cool thing, and now it's been reduced to our usual thing, that is, me spewing out plot hook after plot hook, and the players reacting in a fairly deterministic or tactical way, fairly divorced from their characters status as rounded human beings.

So I'm not sure what to do. Do I just let it go and ride it out the way Gaelinar's player called it? What a waste. I've been running this campaign for years, and been largely dissatisfied with it for a variety of reasons, and I was hoping for something new. I considered having the Militarist and one of his stone cold, scary-cool goons (who can psychically mask herself to slip around unnoticed) appear in his hotel or something, approach him in his sleep, do the whole "I could have killed you just now" routine, just to show that they're savvy and competent. But like I said this player is way defensive, if he feels that I'm trying to push a course of action (or even just push my oen intended vision of events) he'll likely retreat further. I talked it over with another player and he suggested I continue with the "shadow war" without Gaelinar's help, and let Gaelinar start to see the signs--important people disappearing, mysterious murders that seem to bear traces of the Lurkers, and so on, then see if he changes his tune. This feels pretty elegant and cool, but also slow. . .I've already waited so long for some fulfilling play out of this game, I don't know how much longer I want to put it off. Plus I'm kind of wavering on whether (or how) I want to continue the campaign, considering making a big push to resolve a bunch of stuff that's in the air right now, and put it to bed.

The other option I can see is to talk to the player and try to explain that he's misinterpreted my intended portrayal, and kind of clue him in on what I was going for. But this, like the first option above, might just put him on the defensive and he'll throw up a wall--"The GM's trying to talk me into playing my character HIS way. Well, fuck that." Also, it feels pretty inartistic and crude to come out and say it--"hey, I'm setting up a moral delimma for your character here, so step up and make the choicr right, OK?"

I think part of the problem is that our group as a whole has been pretty communicatively dysfunctional. There's always been an unwritten rule that you don't EVER break from the in-game, in-character mindset to address (e.g.) "I like what's going on," or "I don't like what's going on," as a player. A player once felt that our D&D Gm was overly shepherding our characters and always deus ex machina-ing us from death. Rather than talk to her about it, he simply detonated a fireball at his feet with two players in the blast radius. People with a problem gripe to someone else afterwards (like I did with my fellow player), and if a chronic problem persists, we MIGHT have a private chat or a kind of "intervention." But saying, mid-session, or post-session, "hey, that's not what I was going for, I think we should play it this way". . .unthinkable. So it's hard to just up and say "hey, wait a minute. this guy's not supposed to be incompetent. The scene only works if he is competent."

So I guess I'm looking for some advice on how to proceed, as well as general analysis of the gameplay described and critique of GMing decisions on my end. . .whether there's any flaws in my thinking or the way I implemented it. I apologize for the length; I'm pretty verbose and I'm having a hard time determining what might be relevant.

Peace,
Logged

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2006, 02:53:19 PM »

Hi Joel,

I've got some concerns about bothering to pursue this player. But I'll get onto the account;

I don't think he wanted to see the dilemma. And while he doesn't want to see it, he wont, regardless of how much you do.

One suggestion is to simply do less. One technique (I got from a roleplay tips newsletter), was the passive encounter. Typically, GM's put the player ON the sinking boat. But what if you put them on the safe boat, but another boat near them is sinking. Will they put their lives in danger?

The most notable thing is, even if they do nothing, it's a narrativist statement.

Don't do massive build ups or anything - just cook up a bunch of issues like these and sprinkle them through play.


Another suggestion is to simply adopt the stakes he set and say it out loud "So he wouldn't betray Starwalk, but not because he's so loyal to him. He sticks with Starwalk simply because of competance issues."

He might argue that isn't the case, several times. Try to REALLY listen to him each time, understand and show your understanding by stating what you think is his characters statement. Show him your really trying to understand.

Because there's a thin possiblity he's being a jack ass so as to, by force, earn himself the right to make just the statement he wants to make.
Quote
He makes unlikeable characters and puts them at odds with others, not out of any kind of meaningful conflict
It's possible he wants to make a statement with these actions and to him, they are meaningful conflicts. But if your not willing to see that, to read into his actions some sort of meaning, then your killing the dilemmas he's creating. It's like the kid who bullies other kids, because he's aching for understanding but so resentful no one reaches out to him (since he bullies, but never mind that cycle for now).

Then again, he could just be a jerk. But you play with him, so I think you see more in him than that.
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Joel P. Shempert
Member

Posts: 451


WWW
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2006, 01:17:21 AM »

Thanks for the reply, Callan. A lot of what you say makes sense. I do think that the player seems to have a blind spot regarding what I'm trying to do. And from past history, I know that even if I talk to him, I'm likely to get a lot of "mm-hmm," "Oh yeah," "of course," then go back to play and watch him do the same damn thing he was before, leaving my jaw dropped, thinking "what did we JUST talk about?"

One thing I should probably make clear. Our group by NO means has a clear stated goal of Narrativist play. We don't have any sort of stated goal actually, there's a lot of dysfunction and cross-purposes at a lot of levels. After finding the Forge and reading up on the Theory, I had some reservations about a lot of concepts but basically overall felt "This goes a long way toward explaining why I'm dissatisfied with our play." So what I'm trying to do, rather than sit everyone down for a GNS talk and probably get a lot of fidgeting and blank stares, is look for ways to introduce Narrativist style play and see how people take to it. Not to force anyone or "trick" them into playing Narrativist, but do something dynamic like character-driven dilemmas and see what happens, as opposed to the "dicker around Exploring and wait for the veeeerry occasional 'cool stuff' to happen" approach that we've been mainly doing for the last 5 or 6 years. (actually, that's just one facet of our play,there's a strong Gamist element as well, which just leaves my desired CA unrepresented. Yeah, I know Gam and Narr aren't supposed to be able to coexist, but in a wierd way, in our group I think they do.)

I don't know if I did right by trying to work the elements in without explicitly consulting or explaining to the players; I just know that most of these folks haven't heard of the Theory and probably wouldn't grok it in so many words. I've talked to one player who I have a pretty good vibe with (my brother) and he's read some of Ron's esays, and he not only disagrees with a lot of what he's heard/read, but I think he's having trouble understanding me when I try to explain what I see that's desirable in it. But I believe that everyone does of course have something they want out of play (and there's at least a few members that I think might really take to Narr) even if they don't articulate it in theory terms, so I decided to try offering narr-type situations in a non-railroady fashion, and see how it goes. This was the inaugral attempt. I'm also planning to implement Vincent Baker's "So what you're trying to do is. . ." and "So the danger is that. . ." questions for player's actions.

Don't do massive build ups or anything - just cook up a bunch of issues like these and sprinkle them through play.

Yeah, you're probably on to something there. I think I just got so invested with the idea for this particular dilemma, plus impatient at the prospect of finally, maybe getting the kind of play I've always wanted out of this game, that when it didn't work out I was pretty deflated.

Another suggestion is to simply adopt the stakes he set and say it out loud "So he wouldn't betray Starwalk, but not because he's so loyal to him. He sticks with Starwalk simply because of competance issues."

That just might work. And as you say, it'll be a good opportunity to just LISTEN to him and try to understand his angle on all this. It's been a few weeks since we've played, due to outside factors and the fact that we rotate several games with different GMs, so a recap might be a suitable pretext to bring it up.
It's possible he wants to make a statement with these actions and to him, they are meaningful conflicts. But if your not willing to see that, to read into his actions some sort of meaning, then your killing the dilemmas he's creating. It's like the kid who bullies other kids, because he's aching for understanding but so resentful no one reaches out to him (since he bullies, but never mind that cycle for now).

Yes, I know my statements probably sounded pretty judgmental, but I really would like to see if there's something under the veneer, which I guess is why I'm taking the time and trouble here. Due to his "slippery sneak" character concept (plus alienating about all the player characters through jackassery), he's tended to be a bit of a loner within the story, so we've ended up with a fair bit of one-on-one play, and though he often frustrates, we do have a good bit of fun and he seems to give off a "yeah, I really like what you're giving me and how you're responding to it" vibe. But just when it seems interesting he'll drop the ball and it'll go nowhere. I often think I see glimmers of some buried potential for really fulfulling storytelling, but it never quite gets out. Then again, it could just be that he merely "writes poetry to throw his callous, heartless exterior into sharp relief" after all. Hard to say. He's a pretty emotionally guarded person.

Regarding why I play with him, our group is one of those whose membership criteria is pretty much "people that we know who want to play roleplaying games." I respect what Ron says about if a player's goals aren't compatible with yours, don't play with them", at least in theory. But in practice we end up with a combination of "don't wanna hurt anybody's feelings" and "who else do we have to game with?" plus a healthy dose of "these ARE our friends, after all." And it's not that I don't see ANY redeeming qualities in this guy's play (see above), but if you asked me "are there any players you'd maybe like to cut out of your group?" He's probably one of the first who would cross my mind.

Oh and point of interest, Starwalk is a she. That's only maybe relevant because I think I have a tendency to use a female character if I want someone particularly sympathetic.

I've got some concerns about bothering to pursue this player.

Did you cover those concerns in your reply (like "he might just be a jerk," etc.), or was there more on your mind? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Peace,

PS I hope I'm not too verbose with all this crap, I don't wanna monopolize the conversation or anything. :)
Logged

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Luke
Member

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest


WWW
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2006, 07:04:36 AM »

Joel,

Here's where my red flags popped up:

Quote
The other option I can see is to talk to the player and try to explain that he's misinterpreted my intended portrayal, and kind of clue him in on what I was going for. But this, like the first option above, might just put him on the defensive and he'll throw up a wall--"The GM's trying to talk me into playing my character HIS way. Well, fuck that." Also, it feels pretty inartistic and crude to come out and say it--"hey, I'm setting up a moral delimma for your character here, so step up and make the choicr right, OK?"

I may be wrong, but it looks like you presented him with a moral dilemma and he made his choice. To my eyes, you achieved your aim to get a spark of Nar play here. HOWEVER, I think you're the one who broke it. There's no "right choice" to such a dilemma. If there's only one answer, there is no choice at all.

From what I can tell from your post, you're pushing too hard. You've got "a story" in mind. You want him to play out your story. And the subsequent ninja girl coming to him in the night, the "evidence of the shadow war" is a hair away from railroading. "You do what I want or I am going to keep pestering you!"

You need to accept his choice and get on with the good stuff! When you present a problem like that, the answer doesn't matter so much. All that matters is that the player gets a chance to make a statement. From there, we deal with the consequences of his decision, either way. He refused? Great! Now he knows too much! Now he must be eliminated. Hunted by the sekrit soldjers of ze night! Will he go to Starplant for help? What will Starplant do when he finds out that Mr Thief almost betrayed him? Will he believe Mr Thief turned down the offer? Or perhaps this is all a ruse? Off we go, down that slippery slope of madness and fun.

Tough choices are important, sure. But if you're going to throw a fit every time a player makes a choice you don't like, you're bound to be unhappy. Present the choices and play out the consequences and you'll likely have a lot more fun.

Hope that helps
-Luke
Logged

Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2006, 08:31:21 AM »

Hey Joel,

I think you should check out this recent actual play account ( Trollbabe (kinda): Turtle turns heart-ripping seducer ). I think the player is similar to yours, just ignore how the demenour is the opposite. What's shared, IMO, is the muteness.

Quote
Yes, I know my statements probably sounded pretty judgmental, but I really would like to see if there's something under the veneer
I don't think you get to 'see' something there, rather you listen and then believe a moral statement is being made. If you don't believe he's making a moral statement...then he isn't.

You could even up deciding to believe he's making a moral statement...but then he might go and decide not to support his statement at a moral level.

It'll take both of you 'reaching out' in terms of faith that the other person is going to do their side of the deal. Him, support the statement at a moral level. You, believe what he's saying is a moral statement and have faith he'll support it as such. I think, by the way he acts, he's afraid you wont hold up your end and he'll look silly, uncool and you might hold that over him somehow. How do you feel? That in good faith you'll say something like "So, only competance is important to him, that's the only reason he sticks with Starwalk. Whoa, what a statement!" and he'll just shrug it off "Aww, don't get so emotional" or some other shit that lets him be mute and perhaps some pseudo social advantage over you  ("You showed weakness before me! I am leet!"). Certainly some of my friends are quick to scoff over 'emotional stuff'. What do you think?
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2006, 10:17:21 PM »

Hi Joel,

I'm Jon, a new member of the Forge, but a fairly long-time lurker.

I wanted to point out a small piece of your write up. 

I've been running this campaign for years, and been largely dissatisfied with it for a variety of reasons, and I was hoping for something new.

Could you list those reasons?  It might help to get them down on page, and I think they're important to understand the underlying issues you're having with your current game.
Logged

Hi, my name is Jon.
Joel P. Shempert
Member

Posts: 451


WWW
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2006, 01:40:30 AM »

Hello, everyone.

Abzu,

It wasn't so much that he took the "wrong" choice. I wasn't trying to present only one option. it was really more a matrter of him shifting the ground of the choice, i.e. from moral to practical. And I'm not necessarily saying he did "wrong" to do so. I'm just saying that the result was very dissatisfying to me, and I'm tryong to explore why and what to do about it.

I think the biggest "why" is that he essentially (not necessarily intentionally) rejected my input to the SIS. I tried to introduce "Competant person who offers a chance to betray for reward" and he said "no, incompetant," and made a choice based on that. Which left me kind of high and dry. Now the cause of his rejection of "competant" is worth exploring. It could be that he actually wanted to short-circuit my intented contribution, but I don't think that's the case. . .it could be that I flat-out failed in attempting to present him as competant, or it could be that we simply got our wires crossed, and adequate portrayal or not, he still got an impression of incompetance--or saw room for potetial incompetance, and asserted it.

As for "what to do about it," first let me point out that I haven't done anything yet--I didn't "break" the scene, we simply ended the session and haven't reconvened with thatgame yet. And I haven't badgered or pestered or whined--not yet at least. I kept my disappointment to myself, to mull over how I feel and what to do (and subsequently brought it here). Now, you raise some good points. There is a railroading danger in some of my proposals; I think that's one of the questions I'm trying to answer here; how far can/should I push this without it becoming railroading. Again, though, I'm not saying "you have to make THIS choice," my feeling is more like, "I want us to be clear on what moral territory we're covering here, whatever you decide." But that doesn't mean "No, because competance" is out of bounds--I'm still contemplating, with you guys' help.

Your suggested consequences are all good, and some I have considered and plan to use. I guess what still sticks in my craw is that we don't seem to be on the same wavelength as far as what these choices mean, so even if I proceed with the aftermath of his choice, he'll be oblivious to the "actions and consequences" angle and just be thinking "oh, this is just more stuff the GM is throwing at me" and the game will proceed as it always has. And that might not even be the case, because we haven't talked about any of this, so I don't know, I'm just guessing. I'm just not sure how to bring it up, I guess.

Callan,

Your insights into the social and psychological backdrop of this case are getting downright spooky, man. I'd swear you know this guy. "I think, by the way he acts, he's afraid you wont hold up your end and he'll look silly, uncool and you might hold that over him somehow." Very true. And this: "he'll just shrug it off "Aww, don't get so emotional" or some other shit that lets him be mute and perhaps some pseudo social advantage over you  ("You showed weakness before me! I am leet!")" is right on the nail, he maintains a generalstance of "I'm not going to be impressed by anything you do," so where you might whip up a cool adversary or supporting character and other players might be "hey, neat," he's more like "yeah, whatever." It's very frustrating, especially since it tends to provoke an emotional response in me of "OK, I'll just try HARDER," as if coming up with the character or situation that impresses this player is the holy Grail of our gaming. He baits me (intentionally or no) and I fall for it, basically.

The trollbabe thread was very interesting. And yeah, I can look past the surface disparity and see the similarities. I should say, though, that Gaelinar's player reallyonly turtles on the "emotional stuff;" in combat, especiallyPvP-type situations, he's insanely aggressive.

In any case, I think the best next step is to, as you've been saying, verbally confirm the "So you're saying, no, because competance not loyalty" with him.

Glendower,

I didn't list the reasons because I was trying to keep an already horribly-long lost as brief as possible. But we could definitelydiscuss them. I think it'll have to be a post for another day, though.

Peace,
Logged

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2006, 05:50:48 AM »

Hey Joel,

I'm going to focus on this character, instead of your session, since you aren't interested in talking about the details of the session.  That's fine, I understand you want to keep this focused.  Let's talk about this paragraph from your initial message.

The big difficulty is not merely that I don't like, aesthetically, his character portrayal (though I don't, for sure), it's that he seems to engage in disruptive play purposefully and regularly. He makes unlikeable characters and puts them at odds with others, not out of any kind of meaningful conflict, just sheer cussedness and impishness on both a character and player level. His enjoyment of the game seems to be derived from "messing with" everyone, whether through all-out "PVP," or non-combat belligerence, or a kind of practical joking style of play, kind of hard to describe. If you try to talk to him about it, he kind of throws up his hands in innocent denial, or else falls back to the old staple "That's just what my character would do."

There's a quote I saw somewhere, it's either a Lumpley principle or a Ron Edwards "ism". 

"There are no characters, only players". 

It's a neat phrase.  Very Zen.  My understanding of this quote is that players create the characters, use them as tools to explore the world.  Therefore the denial he's making or the excuse "that's what my character would do" is a nice shield to hide behind.  The simple fact is that the PLAYER is causing strife in the campaign.  And specifically, strife for you.

As for what to do about it, I would recommend writing down a few instances of this behaviour, and then go for lunch with this guy.  Just you and him talk about it, try to be positive in terms of dealing with this behaviour.  Talk about how it makes you feel when he does x or y.  Make a connection, and see if maybe you can see if he opens up about why he does x or y.  If you can't talk about it, if he just shuts down, then consider that your honest effort, pull out the cutting knife, and pare away this player from the gaming group. 
Logged

Hi, my name is Jon.
Danny_K
Member

Posts: 198


« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2006, 10:10:56 AM »

Lots of smart folks are posting in this thread already, so I'll make a few brief comments and then pipe down. 

1) In my experience, it's really hard to switch gears in mid-game to a strongly Narrativist approach -- especially if your gaming group has an unspoken rule about not talking OOC about the game.  Your attempts to set up and frame a dilemma are probably looking a lot like railroading to the player, and he's getting defensive about it.   

2) Building off of the "there are no characters" quote last post, it seems to me that this part of your original post is absolutely key.  I'm highlighting the word I changed. 
Quote
But in the absence of much actual "buying power," she's had limited success, and with the player's "can't drop my veneer of cool by actually enjoying something you portray" attitude, I have a had time telling if the player actually likes Starwalk or not.

The real question in my mind is, "Is the player engaged by the whole Lurker subplot?"  It's no reflection on you if he isn't.  Maybe he just can't take Mole People seriously, or something.  But it sounds to me like you've been grabbing this part of the setting and bringing it forward for the character to interact with, even having Starwalk appear in unrelated scenes, and the player still isn't nibbling at the bait. 

3) Final point.  If you take points 1 and 2 together, here's my guess at what was really going on in that session:

What the GM says: "So the militarist leader says that he'd like you to lead his secret war against the surface people."
What the Player hears: "So the NPC says he wants to be your boss and make the rest of the game all about helping the Mole People."
What the Player thinks: "If I say yes, I'll lose all control over my guy.  My guy would never do that, because, um..."
What the Player says: "My guy says no, because he doesn't think the leader is competent." 

In other words, the whole competence issue is a red herring.
Logged

I believe in peace and science.
knicknevin
Member

Posts: 105


WWW
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2006, 10:41:12 AM »

I think Dan's nailed it. If the player isn't biting on your plot hook, then he isn't going to choose to make it a big deal for his character.

Given that this is an OtE game, I assume that there are several layers of weird-ass sh*t going on? Has the player nibbled on any of them? For example, has he been trying to find out more about Karla Sommers or score some MDMA or been wondering how Giovanni makes his cabbies so loyal? Whatever it is he's hooked by, that's what the Lurkers should be doing, if you really want the Shadow war to be the Big Plot.
Might be too late to go that route, as he's already seen what the Lurkers are or aren't up to, to an extent at least, but presumably the character has some motivation? Was the mystical gem his idea or yours? If it his, what has he said about it? What does he expect or assume to happen as he looks for the other half? And if he's a great sneak thief, wouldn't Al Amarja be a great place to work? Is he casing any joints or being made any job offers based on his Traits?

If, on the other hand, the player has coasted around and let you lay out the plot, only acting to stymie it by refusing to bite any hooks, then maybe you would be better off playing something different with him; OtE doesn't really work all that well, in my experience, if the players aren't at least willing to act curious.
Logged

Caveman-like grunting: "James like games".
Joel P. Shempert
Member

Posts: 451


WWW
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2006, 06:39:29 PM »

Glendower,

I'm going to focus on this character, instead of your session, since you aren't interested in talking about the details of the session.

I'm not sure what you mean; I thought I covered about everything relevant from the session. If you mean the details of the campaign, like you asked in an earlier post, I never said I was unwilling to discuss it, just that I wasn't able togo into it just then. It might be a fruitful line to explore, though in the interest of focus perhaps it should be a separate thread. . .

As for what to do about it, I would recommend writing down a few instances of this behaviour, and then go for lunch with this guy.  Just you and him talk about it, try to be positive in terms of dealing with this behaviour.  Talk about how it makes you feel when he does x or y.  Make a connection, and see if maybe you can see if he opens up about why he does x or y.  If you can't talk about it, if he just shuts down, then consider that your honest effort, pull out the cutting knife, and pare away this player from the gaming group.

Yeah, I think this just may be a good idea, though the guy is hard to catch up with during the week. 'Course, I'm still not sure what the best approach is, toget through to him, but that's my burden since I know the guy. I just know I've tried to talk to him one on one before and had it go in one ear and out the other. Maybe if I'm nice, but more direct; I've tended to pussyfoot a bit rather than coming out and saying "Your playing drives me CRAZY".

As far as cutting him from the group, I definitely appreciate the principle that you should find compatible people to game with rather than bang your head against a wall, but the fact is that this campaign has been running for a number of years and I kinda feel like it would be pretylow now to just up and say "see ya." Like, if I was going to take that step, I should've taken it a long time ago. I dunno. I'm actuallytrying to look at the whole campaign and bring it to some kind of satisfying conclusion so I can move on to other games. And anyway, I'm not the only one who runs games in our group, so I wouldn't have the only say on his status in our group. Though he HAS been on thin ice with other players too at times.

The real question in my mind is, "Is the player engaged by the whole Lurker subplot?"  It's no reflection on you if he isn't.  Maybe he just can't take Mole People seriously, or something.  But it sounds to me like you've been grabbing this part of the setting and bringing it forward for the character to interact with, even having Starwalk appear in unrelated scenes, and the player still isn't nibbling at the bait.

He kind of seems to be engaged, inasmuch as I can tell from his poker face. But he's really passive in general. He perks up if he sees something really funny/disruptive (overlapping sets for him) he can do in a given scene, but he has little ambition to go out and, as knicknevin said, be curious. He started out asking everyone and his uncle about his mysterious stone, then things just kinda dried up. . .I had a minor mafioso hire him, first to get his hands on an object that the other PCs, plus a bunch of NPC groups, were chasing,--then when that was over, his boss tasked him to track down this other thief with wierd powerz who had stolen from them, and which Gaelinar had a grudge against anyway. I'm not sure if it's a lack of drive or just of investigative skills (perhaps some of both), but he's just been really lackadaisical and repeatedly turned up little or no progress and tried his boss' patience.

So anyway, I guess all that is to say that he HAS shown himself to be willing to sign up with a "boss" and thus surrender some control, AND that even when he does seem to be willing to follow a given path, he follows it so apathetically that it's hard to gage interest.

Knicknevin,

The Mystical Gem was his idea. He left it up to me what its significance is, so I've been trying to come up with something cool since day one, and kind of stalling unhtil I do. I had a hard time deciding between some interesting possibilities, so I kept discoveries kind of vague. I knew all along that Starwalk's interest in Gaelinar had something todo with the stone, but never settled on what exactly. This latest plotline is my attempt to accelerate things a bit and provide some satisfying resolution.

I'm trying to think of things that the player has showed interest in without prompting from me, through his "Boss." Not coming up with much. He's nosed arond the University a bit in his search for answers about the stone, but hasn't really done much there except develop some rivalry with the fraternities. He's developed a pretty strong grudged against the Glorious Lords (satanist gang) and loves to mess with them/kill and maim them horribly, though he doesn't have very good relations with the rival Aries gang, 'cuz his character's such a public and vocal asshole. Everything else (which I mostly detailed above, plus some poking into Sir Compton's doings) has pretty much been initiated by Simon, his boss. To some degree that just comes with the territory for a character whose stated motivation is "do anything for the highest pay." But it definitely doesn't make for very interesting Over the Edge'in.
Logged

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Glendower
Member

Posts: 182

My name is Jon.


« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2006, 07:00:56 AM »

As far as cutting him from the group, I definitely appreciate the principle that you should find compatible people to game with rather than bang your head against a wall, but the fact is that this campaign has been running for a number of years and I kinda feel like it would be pretylow now to just up and say "see ya." Like, if I was going to take that step, I should've taken it a long time ago. I dunno. I'm actuallytrying to look at the whole campaign and bring it to some kind of satisfying conclusion so I can move on to other games. And anyway, I'm not the only one who runs games in our group, so I wouldn't have the only say on his status in our group. Though he HAS been on thin ice with other players too at times.

Sorry about the "not interested in discussing the campaign" thing I mentioned previously.  I wrote session instead of campaign, I don't know what I was thinking.  Besides, it's not that you're avoiding the question or anything, I understand you don't want to write pages and pages of campaign reports and get totally derailed from what you were initially talking about. 

I'm going to stick with the player issue here, and away from the game itself.  I'm fairly certain this is a social contract issue, and that there is some problem with communication between you and the player.  This is a hard thing to fix, as social contract stuff can be really messy, as you have people's relationships and feelings to negotiate through, much like a minefield.

Again, I suggest talking to him.  Taking 3 or 4 times where you felt "Your playing drives me CRAZY" and bring it up to him.  Say something like "you did x, and it made me feel y."  If he's a friend, he'll correct the behaviour because he cares about your feelings.  If he isn't a friend, you really shouldn't be running a game with him.  Life is too short to play with people you don't connect with, and who make the game less fun.  If the talking doesn't work, then tell him straight out "You do x, I feel y.  I don't want to see x at the table anymore, this is a game breaker for me.  Can you please stop doing it?"

As for ending the campaign, I suggest the always entertaining "Dolf Lundgren Ending". You take Dolf from his Red Scorpion Days, and have him lean out of a helicopter with a large caliber machine gun, say something pithy, and mow down the players.  I have taken many games that are going miserably and applied the Dolph ending, to the cheers of my players. 

A meteorite hitting the world is a good one too.  Boom!  Roll credits.

My second point is that if you're seeking to end the campaign, and I'm inferring a bit but it seems you are ending it because you aren't enjoying running it, then end it quickly.  Rip off the bandage instead of slowly tugging. 

I love analogies, maybe too much.
Logged

Hi, my name is Jon.
knicknevin
Member

Posts: 105


WWW
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2006, 11:52:17 AM »

Glendower,

 the fact is that this campaign has been running for a number of years and I kinda feel like it would be pretylow now to just up and say "see ya." Like, if I was going to take that step, I should've taken it a long time ago.

Much as I am loathe to stray off topic, I have to comment on such a perfect instance of the infamous 'Prior Investment Fallacy', which can roughly be summarised thus:

"I have invested X resources in doing Y, therefore I must continuing investing X in Y or I will get nothing out of my investment"

No. Sticking at something that is not only unrewarding but is actually costing you time/money/other resources, especially to the detriment of other things you could be doing with those resources, has been the failure of many a business and the principle applies on personal endeavours too.

Give this guy his chance, take the time to work things out with him, but if it still won't float, its time to cut your losses and a better focus for your efforts.

Sorry to digress or sound negative; I hope that some of the suggestions or comments made here will turn your experience with this player right around, but if it doesn't, you absolutely should not feel like you have to carry on slugging away at it. Its meant to be fun for you too, remember.
Logged

Caveman-like grunting: "James like games".
drnuncheon
Member

Posts: 155

Some call me Jeff


« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2006, 01:22:22 PM »

One thing I wanted to add:

He started out asking everyone and his uncle about his mysterious stone, then things just kinda dried up. . .

The Mystical Gem was his idea. He left it up to me what its significance is, so I've been trying to come up with something cool since day one, and kind of stalling unhtil I do.

This may be part of your problem.  The player set out a big hook for his character and it "just kinda dried up".  So here's my suggestion: bring the stone into the Lurker plotline.  How?

The easiest solution? Maybe the Lurkers have it, and they offer it to him as reward for his services.  But based on how you describe this character, he's likely to see that as you railroading him.  So that might not be the best idea.  Moving on, maybe the Lurkers have information about it.  And who has it?  Their enemies, of course.  And by going in after the stone, he'll provide an advantage to the militarists.

So now he's got a choice - go after the other half of his McGuffin (and betray his friends) or give up what brought him to the island in the first place.  But he's still going to wind up involved in the whole situation.

J
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 3588


WWW
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2006, 06:13:56 PM »

I think you should get him to say what it does.

You could even get him to say it in play. Scene frame to some dangerous scene full of baddies and nasty crap. Then say the stone starts glowing. Just as he looks at you (in his jaded way) to see what happens, you say...

"Tell me, what does the stone do!?"

This will be a leap of faith for you...he'll be in charge. But, you've just snookered him...he can not be jaded about his own contribution to the game! The only thing he can do, is add something to the game that he thinks is cool!
Logged

Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!