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Author Topic: Werewolf, 1st Session  (Read 12780 times)
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« on: April 25, 2002, 11:48:04 AM »

Hello All,

Well, as some of you know I decided to give my on going Deadlands game a rest at the end of the last story arc.  I put a whole bunch of games from my collection on the table and said, 'What do you want to play next?" to my group.

I can never figure out why players are so non-commital when it comes to these things.  The discussion went back and forth and back and forth with much heming and hawing.  FINALLY, it was narrowed down to playing one of White Wolf's World of Darkness games driven more by the players curiosity about the popularity of the line than an imaginative commitment to any of the actual content.  So we ran down the list of WoD games and narrowed that down to Vampire and Werewolf.  Werewolf won by a single vote but that wasn't really an indication of anything since over half the group abstained.

Hmm... I look at what I just wrote and it looks a bit cynical which is odd because I'm about to write some really positive stuff.

Information regarding the character creation session can be found here:
http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1872

So, it came time for me to start planning and let me say that it was rough.  It took me ages to bring the cosmological ideas down to earth.  And then it only manifested as an interesting Setting/Situation element.  Everything else was just a list of interesting elements and potential conflicts.  My whole mess of notes simply refused to gel into any kind of coherent back story and/or relationship map.

The I figued out why.  Werewolf has a distinct Tribal Hero Tale feel to it which lends itself to a structure similar to pulp adventures.  As I've said before back stories and relationship maps don't really work for the fairly linear, "And then this happend, and then this happend, and then THIS happened," feel of pulp adventure.  I realized that my ideas weren't geling because I needed the players to really drive the action.

At the start of the session I gave a handout to the players explaining the Setting/Situation elements I had come up with and told them upfront that outside of that and a handful of additional 'neat ideas' that's all I had planned.  I described it as having a series of rag patches but that I needed the players' actions to be the thread that weaved it all together.  Finally, I reitereated that there were no right or wrong answers to conflicts presented and that nothing truly exists until it enters actual play.

I then proceeded, with much fear and trepidation, to run the most loosely prepared and improvisational game of my entire roleplaying career... and it fucking kicked ass!  It was funny, scary and dramatic all at the same time.

I started off at a Moot just after the Pack's Rite of Passage.  One of the Sept's Elders approched the Pack's Galliard (Werewolf Bard) and asked him to recount the tale of their Rite of Passage.  This of course put the Galliard's player on the spot.  Now, at character creation, the players had agreed that during their Rite of Passage they had killed some kind of entity that smelled of the Wyrm but that they had doubts as to whether it was really a Wyrm creature or not.  So, he had that to go on.  However, this player is kind of new to my group (he only got to play two Deadlands sessions) and proceed to ask me a WHOLE bunch of questions about their Rite of Passage.  To which I simply said, "I don't know.  It was your Rite of Passage.  You tell me."

Now, I felt comfortable doing this because this player is a veteran Werewolf player so I knew he'd come up with something really cool and once he got past the idea that he wasn't going to destroy anything I may have preplanned he proceed to tell a GREAT tale in which the players apparently killed some kind of Wyrm Tainted Three Tailed Fox Thing.  The player in question explained to me that the creature in his story is a werefox but that most werewolves don't know they exist and that they smell of the Wyrm because of a spacific kind of magic they know.  But what the story boiled down to was that the players had basically hunted down and killed an ally.

And the game just ran from there.  I took a lot of notes and made links to things in my 'neat ideas' list and many did get incorporated into actual play.  Things moved very fast and a LOT happened in that game.  Basically, after their characters learned that they'd killed an ally they've set off on a quest to find a way to resurect him before any of the Sept elders figure it out.

One interesting observation is that when you flat out tell the players that there isn't really anything prepared and that you're basically winging it, then player paranoia goes WAY down and they become a lot more proactive.  They stop asking a lot of repeative questions of NPCs and stop trying to turn over every minute rock and scavage for every detail known to man before deciding to take action.  Basically, they stop trying to second guess the GM when they know there isn't anything to second guess.  This was very refreshing.  This is my one problem I have with backstory/relationship scenarios. Players tend to start making uncovering the backstory and revealing the relationship map the objective of play.  Too many Call of Cthulhu games.

Also, I need to figure out a way to get some of the players to stop asking me questions about very mundane things.  At one point the players were inside a fullly furnished and lived in appartent and one player asked me if there were coat hangers in the closet.

What's the point of all this?  I'm not really sure.  I thought I'd just share and see if anyone found it interesting.  Fell free to ask questions.

Jesse
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2002, 12:33:34 PM »

Of course there were coat hangers in the closet. There are always coat hangers in the closet.
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Erik
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2002, 01:11:17 AM »

Hi all,

As you surely will notice english is not my first language so please bear with the bad grammar, the esoteric spelling and so on.  :-)

I have in my gaming discovered that one of the best ways to get the players to "take charge" of the story is to formalize it in some way. Most roleplayers are in my experience "stuck" in the powerstructure "GM-know it all" vs "players-only allowed controlling the characters actions". (As the question about hangers show.)

To easiest way to break this is in making rules for it, as InSpectres does, but when the system does not provide this framework then there are some metasystems which can help. I am myself an advocate for the old cardsystems  (Path of Horror, Path of Intrigue and Whimsy cards)* and are tinkering a bit with a similar deck of my own design.

I sure wish that some gamedesigners with more talent than me (hint hint) would create similar systems  ;-)

When we played OtE we used all of these old cardsystems plus cut-ups to let the player describe actions, sideplots NPC:s and so on. It worked extremly well.

Just my rambling thoughts on the matter.

I look forward hearing more about the game.

Erik Hansson

*For those who dont know, these cards lets the players describe events, introduce sideplots, affect outcomes of actions and so on. I dont think any of them still are in print though.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2002, 05:41:18 AM »

Hi Jesse,

This may be too way-out for your group, but I think that Mike Sullivan's The Framework is ideal for such games. You might consider a Framework-lite process of some kind as a "meta-system" over the Werewolf rules.

Best,
Ron
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Michael S. Miller
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Posts: 846


WWW
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2002, 06:15:30 AM »

Hi, Jesse.

The way I solved the "coat hangers in the closet" sort of problem was by being very explicit about my GM-veto power. I told my players "If it seems reasonable to you that something is in the scene, pick it up and use it. If it isn't there, I'll tell you so." That way, you can still make a point of furnishings being weird, if circumstances demand, but the players know you won't say "no" unless there's a reason. It's worked pretty well.

I've never had to resort to the second-tier of this system, which is the same as above, plus "If you *do* ask me if something is there, I'll say no." It's never become that big a problem.

Incidentally, are you using Fortune-in-the-Middle? I want to use it next time I run Mage and was wondering if there were any snafus with the Storyteller system.
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Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2002, 09:08:33 AM »

Hejsan, Eric!

Välkommen till Smidan!  Din engelska låter ganska bra till mig.  Oroar dig inte for det här.  Åtminstone du kan skriva engelska, medan vi får strida med vår utlandspråk kunnighet.

Anyway, I'll spare you any more of my beaten svenska -- your English is far, far better.  I remember those Whimsey cards, even made my own set with a few additions.  They were pretty fun, although in practice we discovered people used them more as another character resource rather than a story enhancer.

Best,

Blake
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2002, 09:17:43 AM »

Hello Again,

I just checked out the Framework and yeah, that is a little 'out there' for my group.  It's even a bit out there for me.  I like to promote considering Premise and high high high amounts of Author Stance but the various forms of extreme Director Stance are still very scary to me.  Asking me if there are coat hangers is a bit rediculous and I'm cool with players introducing NPCs and Locations I've never heard of... but actually dictating the actions of NPCs that I've already introduced into play?  I'm too much of a control freak for that.

See, I LOVE games like Sorcerer, Everyway, and even Story Engine.  Hero Wars sounds very cool.  I like games whose systems promote thinking about issues that the stories are actually about.  Riddle of Steel is begining to attracted my attention if I can get over the combat system.  Exhaustion with the combat system is probably the number one reason I shut down the Deadlands games, outside of just wanted to try something new.  I'd like to TRY games like The Questing Beast or SOAP and especially Inspectres but I'm not so sure that they'd sustain my interest for long term play.  Then again, I'm constantly surprising myself when I try new things.

But you're right, perhaps I can adapt the Framework in some manner that will at least make the players stop asking me if there are coat hangers.  And like I said, I like it when they do Director Stancy things that are very close to their characters such as introducing relatives and friends and going to places that I haven't thought of.

This of course rolls into the other question of how I'm dealing with the system.  I have kind of weird relationship with systems.  I like to TRUST systems which is why I don't participate much in the Design Forums.  I like to think that systems are designed with some kind of purpose and passion and that if that purpose isn't clear upfront then that purpose will emerge over time through play so long as you stick with the system as written and don't give up on it.

Fairly Simulationy systems don't bother me much because more often than not they do a lot of 'neat' thing that help keep the game focused at least on the style and feel of the game if not the actual Premise.  7th Sea with it's Drama Dice, colorfully named abilities and neat swordsman schools is a good example.  Deadlands works for me as well, though becomes tiresome after a while.  I've only really encountered one system that truely worked AGAINST, although the above certainly to don't facilitate, my creative priorities and that was d20.

All that said I really dislike the Storyteller system because it's so wishy-washy.  The problem is that it has a core philosophy of, 'In a perfect world, roleplaying games wouldn't need rules.'  Other game systems casually mention the god awful 'golden rule' but Storyteller prints it in bold every other page.  It gives me a bunch of throw away rules and then orders me to ignore them.  This means that in practice the system is non-existent.  It doesn't do anything except say Yay or Nay on a task by task basis.  I feel as though I might as well be consulting a magic eight ball.  It certainly would be faster.  It just lacks all the color and flare that games like 7th Sea or Deadlands have.

Oh boy, I feel a bit of rant coming on but this is something that's been wanting to come out somewhere.  Please note that this is not meant to reflect on any specific PLAYERS who enjoy the Storyteller system and use it to meet their needs.  What I'm about to say reflects only the feeling I got from finally reading a Storyteller game cover to cover.

I can't help but use the word, 'bitter' to describe the Storyteller system.  Everything I read in Werewolf left me with a feeling that the designers of the Storyteller hadn't really had an enjoyable time roleplaying and particularly GMing.  The whole damn book felt like it was saying, 'Just remember all your players would really rather just be playing D&D.  Here's some tips on how to get their heads out of the dungeons.'  It feels like the rules are designed to basically give the players their power trip, because that's all they're going to care about anyway, and gives all the narrative power to the GM because he or she is the only one with any real creative or artistic drive.

Again, I'm not saying this is how it is used in real life, it just feels like this is the assumptions it was designed with.  It feels like the designers had a core understanding about Premise and Theme making good stories but would never in a million years concieve of a player who might actually care about such things.  The Tribes, Auspices and Breeds don't feel so much like the clever marketing strategy they've been used as but rather a cruel trick played by a bitter GM in attempt to be able to second guess his player behavior.  The idea seems to be to try and disguise railroading as thinking in character.

Think about it.  With all those constraints on the characters it empowers the GM to create a situation and know EXACTLY or at least a quality approximation of how each player will react to it.  It allows the GM to think, 'I'll do this and then the Pack's Black Fury will jump all over it.'  And if the Black Fury DOESN'T jump all over it, the game basically empowers the GM and the other players to lambast the player for 'poor roleplaying' all the way down to the denial of XP and replenishing Willpower points.  They try to tell you that the Tribes are really just outlines and that you should roleplay your character individualistically.  But what it seems to REALLY be saying is that, 'Some Black Furies will attack the sexist pig outright while other Black Furies will destroy his life slowly over time.'  But the core interesting decision of meting vengence on the sexist pig has already been made in the rule book.

Yeah, the Storyteller system feels angry.  The Storyteller system understands that quality stories come from Premise and Theme but doesn't trust players to care about such things.  It's designed to allow the GM to use classical conditioning to 'train' his players to roleplay.  'How cute,' says the bitter GM, 'look at the little power games clamoring for their kewl powerz.  Well, you can have your little power trip but first you must jump through this hoop for me and show that you're good little puppets in my story.'

Okay, rant over.  And one last time just to be clear I'm not saying this is how the game actually gets played.  I'm saying that this is how it felt to me while reading it.  All that said, how do I use it?

I consult the magic eight ball.  Basically, I try to keep things focused on a conflict instead of a task level.  I award bonus dice for good descriptions of actions.  If I'm stuck for ideas based on the outcome of a die roll I ask the player or other players for ideas.  I encourage people to make it very clear to me what they are trying to accomplish when they ask for a die roll.  

I think it came up recently that TRUE Fortune-In-The-Middle requires some mechanic that allows you to alter the actual outcome AFTER your roll.  7th Sea and Deadlands have such a mechanic but the Storyteller system doesn't.  However, just turning classic 'whiffs' into protagonizing moments is realatively easy and so is encouraging Monologue of Victory style of play.  Just keep things focused on conflict and you should be fine.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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Posts: 16490


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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2002, 09:29:35 AM »

Hey,

For clarity's sake, my use of "true" Fortune-in-the-middle to describe post-roll system tweaks was over-stated. Fang's distinction between "mild" FitM and FitM "with teeth" (ie including post-roll fixes) is much better.

As for your rant ... I could not agree more. I think you have characterized the White Wolf mode of writing and thinking about games perfectly.

Best,
Ron
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Blake Hutchins
Member

Posts: 614


« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2002, 10:54:53 AM »

Agreed.  My good moments with WW have come despite the Storyteller system.

Best,

Blake
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leomknight
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2002, 02:30:14 PM »

I've never played any WW games. I've bought a few on sale to mine for ideas, but I was put off by the massively detailed backgrounds. I came to roleplaying with the generic systems: D&D, Traveller, etc. Part of my joy is creating my own characters, groups, situations, and settings. I have a hard time wrapping my head (and my heart) around someone else's ideas, unless they are very compelling. I've met some folks who played Vampire. They seemed very into the inter-clan politics, and trivia gleaned from a close reading of all the supplements. This didn't get my motor running. It felt like an excuse to sell lots of pricey books to fans. But a lot of folks seem really enthusiastic about it, so maybe it's just me.

Jburneko, I'm glad your session went so well. A lot of times, it's best  to stop planning, and just PLAY, and magic happens. I remember running years ago with a packaged backgroud based on Theives' World, by Robert Lynn Asprin. Read all the books, made character lists, knew all the politics, yadda yadda. When it came time to run, I hardly used any of it. The players were more interested in the characters I had created, because they had goals and desires that I knew and cared about. And as the campaign grew, magically, more characters were created, more relationships formed, more goals were set, more plots hatched.

As to the player asking about hangers, I've had players ask all sorts of dumb stuff. Usually, they felt there was some mystery, and the question was about a potential clue, like was the place lived in recently? Or, they were trying to do some boy scout/ McGyver/ survivalist thing. I usually either play along, or ask "Why do you want to know THAT?", and get to a more direct way of dealing with what they want.
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