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Author Topic: Experience and SAs - New GM's Concerns  (Read 9275 times)
Deacon Blues
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Posts: 46


« on: October 29, 2003, 09:11:26 AM »

Being a veteran GM and a fan of AEG's 7th Sea, I'm a big fan of rewarding players for having their character's follow their destiny.  In fact, the "Background" system in 7th Sea is similar to the experience awarded through Spiritual Attributes in TRoS, which I just acquired a week ago.  I love everything about this system, but I'm confused and hesitant on one issue.

The book mentions that a player should earn 3-5 SA points per session (or, rather, that that range is "pretty good").  I have no idea how they're going to earn that many points.  That's a lot of involvement for every single character to have in the main storyline.

For one thing, I work with good roleplayers, but even they have off days.  For a PC to earn 3 to 5 SA points per session, multiple aspects of his Spirituality would have to be involved - he'd have to defend his Faith, live up to his Drive, pursue his Passion, etc. - all in one session.  Sure, if he gets in a good "laugh line" or something else I find dramatically appropriate, he gets a Luck point.  That's not much.

Second, this puts a lot of weight on my shoulders as GM.  I have to make sure each adventure includes multiple "triggers" for each PC's spiritual attributes.  I have a hard enough time making sure each character gets the spotlight in my five-person games as is.  They understand, and I do, that sometimes the light shines brighter on one character than another for one session, and that their turn will come next week, or maybe even next month.

My question, then: can anyone provide an example of play, or a recap of a real session, where every PC gets 3-5 SA points?  I'm sure it's possible; I'm just stumped as to how!  Help me solve my own "Riddle," as it were.
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Caz
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2003, 09:45:20 AM »

I think you're worrying a little more than you need to, it's not all on you.  The pc can work in on them even without you to a point.
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Deacon Blues
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Posts: 46


« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2003, 09:58:50 AM »

Quote from: Caz
I think you're worrying a little more than you need to, it's not all on you.  The pc can work in on them even without you to a point.
Really?  *wipes sweat from brow*  How so?  Example please.
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2003, 10:04:20 AM »

Interestingly, in most play I've been involved with the 3-5 estimate is far fewer than were actually delivered.  Do a search in this forum on "Blood Opera" where Ron Edwards describes a play technique where he may hand out that many just in a single encounter.

The key disconnect, however, I'm seeing in your question involves GM prep and SAs.  

I have a feeling you're viewing the SA's like background ads and disads in other games...things to keep in mind to make sure you incorporate them once in a while into your overall plot.

Doesn't work in TROS.

Rule #1: In TROS the GM has no plot.  The GM has only SAs.  If you're thinking in terms of "how am I going to fit that SA in" you're doing it wrong (IMO).  The intricate network of PC SAs should pretty much design your scenario for you.  The players are telling you what they want their characters to be doing by their choice of SAs.  That's how experience is earned.  All you have to do is give them the free reign to pursue the goals they have written down and the scenario will decide itself.

Rule #2: In TROS group character creation and SA definition is a must.  You definitely do not want to have a party of 5 individual characters with SAs all over the place.  There should be a central web of relationships that tie the characters together.  (As a for instance:  A hates X, B wants to see his sister marry X, B is friends with A.  C is in love with Bs sister)

Rule #3: In TROS, any major event that occurs in your game should be directly triggering 2-3 or more SAs from each player.  Thats sort of the definition of major event in the game.  If the characters aren't that committed to it...it ain't major, why would the characters care enough to participate?  If the characters DO care enough to participate, than this should be reflected in the player's choice of SAs.

Rule #4: related to #3. Expect and encourage SA's to change.  These aren't carved in stone backgrounds.  They not only can change, they change easily.  If one player's big huge goal is completely immaterial to the issue at hand, then the player should ditch that goal (temporarily) and change it to a new one.  What new one?  Simple...why is that character willing to risk (life/whatever) in pursuing this issue? Loyalty to a friend?  Its the "right" thing to do? Whatever.  THAT'S the SA that drives them that night.  An experienced player learns to swap the SA out for the new one, and then go back to the "real" SA later.

Rule #5: related to #4.  Don't make the mistake of associating the level of the SA with the strength of the emotion.  Love(Christina):5 is in no way a stronger or more meaningful love than Love(Christina):1.  AT ALL, carve that one in stone 3 times.  The number is not how strongly you feel the emotion, the number is how relevant the emotion is to the story at that point in time.  If you are doing a bunch of things involving your love for Christina, then your SA will increase.  Not because your love increased but because Christina is more important to the story right then.  As your SA gets higher you will be empowered to deal with foes that threaten your love for Christina with alot of extra dice.  Next night, after Christina is left behind safely in the village while you go in pursuit of some villain who just betrayed your king; spend the accumulated Love(Christina) SA and replace the SA with Hate(villain), or Drive(justice) or something of the like.  Does this mean you've stopped loving Christina?  No.  It means Christina will have no impact on the story for the next part.  Alternatively you could keep the love(Christina) SA and try to work in how your love for her is driving you onward (like Lancelot being inspired by his love for Guenevere).  Also valid but a different technique.

Rule #6:  Do not be afraid or attempt to avoid PC vs PC conflict.  Some of the most powerful TROS stories ever told arose from PC on PC conflict (sometimes resulting in a PC killing another PC).  I don't know how you feel about this sort of thing from experience with other games, but forget everything you know or prefer about this from those other games.  This is not a disruptive game ending thing in TROS its truly powerful stuff.  (In the ABC for instance I gave above, the story played out: B helped A resist X, B and C killed each other over B's sister, and A died killing X.  Damn was that good stuff...3-5 points a session...heck more like 15-20 that night).


Hope that was helpful.

edited for grammar and punctuation type stuff
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Lxndr
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2003, 10:33:06 AM »

For the other extreme in anecdotes, Wolfen, the GM in the tRoS game I'm playing in right now, barely hands out three to five points to the whole group every 4-hour session (at least, not in the 3 or 4 sessions we've had so far).  Those meager points of Luck handed out each session are the main driving force in character advancement, for whatever reason.  And while this feels rather on the slow side for me, I am still having fun with the game.  

In other words:  don't worry if what you hand out is smaller than the "recommended."  Your group will find a balance of their own.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Anthony I
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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2003, 10:39:25 AM »

Ralph,

That was a great explanation of SA's.  Jake or Brian out to add that to the "Forum Directory/newbies" section.
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Anthony I

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Spartan
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2003, 11:08:30 AM »

Just another small comment, let the players ASK you for S.A. points.  Trust me, they will... I mercilessly quest after them.  Salamander even  called me an "S.A. Whore" in our last session, which I take as a compliment.  I managed to get three Luck points (a botch, the high roll, and a funny) that session, and one in my Drive.  I intend to be just as agressive next session (this Sunday!).

So I guess if you allow for situations that encourage the use of S.A.'s, and encourage the players to ask for them, you should find that it all works out in the end.

-Mark
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2003, 11:36:46 AM »

This is a really good thread.

In the few years that I've been playing TROS my take on all of this has changed a little bit. I've been in games where the SA points flowed like water...and some where players got 2 a night on average. The key is really contained in 2 things (I think...). (1) Bangs. That's a term stolen from Ron Edward's Sorcerer game, but in TROS it means keeping a list of your players' SAs around and hitting them with sudden conflict based on them. Incessantly. (2) The second thing is an issue of "social contract." Players that are used to or chose to stay in a mode of XPs or Character Points or anything of the sort often fail to realize that earning SA points really is in there hands. I've got an SA: Passion - Hate Duke Fred. As a PC I'm going to relentlessly look for ways of making the Duke's life hard. And everytime I put my back into it or risk myself for it or pull the story in that direction, I get an SA point. BAM! And I get it on the spot, not at the end of the game. The give-a-dog-a-treat analogy is exactly what I'm going for here. They'll be begging for SAs in no time. Be generous.

Jake
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Deacon Blues
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Posts: 46


« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2003, 11:57:25 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Interestingly, in most play I've been involved with the 3-5 estimate is far fewer than were actually delivered.  Do a search in this forum on "Blood Opera" where Ron Edwards describes a play technique where he may hand out that many just in a single encounter.
I can't find the specific thread you mention, but the rest of your suggestions are very informative.

Quote
Rule #1: In TROS the GM has no plot.  The GM has only SAs.  If you're thinking in terms of "how am I going to fit that SA in" you're doing it wrong (IMO).  The intricate network of PC SAs should pretty much design your scenario for you.
This is something I'd been suspecting, and it's good to hear a confirmation.  This is a pretty radical departure from standard GMing and adventure-design style, but it's the kind of thing I like.  I love when the PCs make their own quests in other games.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2003, 12:28:56 PM »

Valimir is, in my opinion at least, using hyperbole in that statement to drive home the point. Pre-planned adventures with planned encounters and stops along the way don't work well for TRoS. The GM can still have a plot.. But his best bet is to write it AFTER group character creation. My recommendations on this...

First, pick a general area you want to play in. I chose a single city, but allowed characters from all of the surrounding regions, or outside of them with a good explanation as to how they got there. This region can either be a starting point, or the entire basis for your campaign. When one of my players chose to be the governor's son, it suggested to me that we were going for a stationary game.

Second, create a "story web". Create character concepts who would be based in that area, or likely to be passing through. Do this with the group before character creation. Find ways to tie the many characters together. Don't be afraid to add characters who are outside of that region but are related to characters within it. Once everyone is satisfied, they'll pick a character from that web, or a character from one of the groups in the web (frex, group: city watch might produce a PC who's a guardsman).

Create characters. Chances are, you've already got general ideas of interpersonal hatreds and friendships, so use some of those in your SAs. If your PCs choose SAs that you think you might have trouble working into a story, ask them questions on why they're important to the character. Don't allow a thief to have "Hatred: Local Hero" if the local hero hasn't done anything to personally affect that thief. A general dislike does not an SA make.

Once chargen is done, if you feel like playing for a couple hours to intro characters, hit 'em with bangs (as described above by the esteemed Mr. Norwood) whatever, then do so. But once that first session of character creation is done is when your work actually begins. Then you build the story. Keep it flexible, as always, because players tend to be ingenious at unwittingly destroying a GM's story.. Flesh out NPCs that you think will be important (hint: if someone has an SA based on an NPC, flesh them out... chances are, they'll be important.) At that point, once your next session of play begins, hopefully the characters will begin pursuing their drives actively, and all you've got to do from their is play NPCs, respond to their actions, and throw twists and bangs from your plot outline when appropriate. The players are actively weaving the story, so much of the work of being Seneschal is gone, and you can concentrate on adding to the story, rather than trying to create it entirely yourself.
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~Lance Allen
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2003, 12:58:10 PM »

Quote
I can't find the specific thread you mention, but the rest of your suggestions are very informative.


Hmmm.  I couldn't find it either.  Maybe it was in one of the RPG.net threads.

But I did find this one, which is chock full of concentrated goodness.
Unstated Bits of TROS


Wolf:  Little bit.  But its a damn fun Hyberbole :-)

Sides your description isn't so much writing a plot as it is prepping a situation.  Get some good solid prep with lots of NPCs and stuff the PCs SAs intersect with, wind it up, and watch it go.  If you've got NPCs with goals to pursue, NPCs who want to thwart the goals, NPCs who are going to be hurt one way or the other, and PCs whose SAs intersect them all at some point...you've gotta damn fine TROS game in the making.
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Brian Leybourne
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Posts: 1793


« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2003, 01:03:30 PM »

I don't have much to add to the excellent advice already given, except that I find that the group creation of a relationship map is also extremely useful in a TROS campaign.

Everyone throws characters into the mix, both PC's they intend to have and also NPC's. Everyone who gets added to the map should have at least one link to someone else already there. This works best in a stationary (or at least initially stationary) campaign of course, such as Lance mentioned.

Once you have this huge map, life becomes a lot easier for both the GM and the players. The players can use it to help them think about initial SA's and plot ideas, while the GM can use it to help with bangs (TROS play should be player-driven to a great extent, but not 100%).

Can't recommend it highly enough. Hell, we even had a couple of players pick different characters from the map we made to be their PC's, rather than the ones they had thrown in there to be their PC's, because they thought those new characters might be more interesting.

Oh yeah, and keep the map up to date as the campaign carries on. Ours is fricking huge, but damn cool.

Two further benefits: Even outside SA's, you know the links and relationships between PC's (damn useful since there are only 5 SA's but you want to track more relationships than that). Also, if a PC dies, there is often another character on the relationship map who the player will be interested in "converting to a PC", and you don't face the usually difficult and implausible task of inventing ways to link him to the other PC's ("You seem a trustworthy fellow, total stranger... would you care to join us in our quest" et al).

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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Deacon Blues
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2003, 01:52:45 PM »

I didn't mean to single out Varamir before as if no one else were contributing.  Everyone's advice has helped me breathe easier and figure this thing out.  Thanks!
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I'm not saying I'm one for violence
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- Tonic
Vanguard
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Posts: 71


« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2003, 04:47:01 PM »

Just one final thought...

What I'm guessing from what Deacon originally talked about was the logistics of fitting SAs into a session that you, as seneschal, are planning.

You've got to start the story somewhere. TROS, being all lovely and mature, allows that rare freedom for players to carve out their own direction, destiny.... A PC ends up fighting for what he cares about, not what the DM forces him to. That being the case, you, as a senseschal, are still gonna worry about fitting the PC varied SAs into your plot.

As someone else said. My solution would be simply not to worry about it.

Like the A-team (cringe), you'd have those episodes where nothing was really actually addressed. The episode was just an excuse for big explosions and convoluted contraptions.

Then there was the ones where BAs fear of flying was brought to bear, where the team's flight from military persecution might be addressed, and where Face's compulsion to shag anything in a skirt would feature prominently.

So, to conclude. Some sessions, a sceneshal might give out 1-2 SAs, the other upto 10-20.

Just run what you think will give the players the most fun, and let the plot evolve as the players take a stake in it, or force it's direction elsewhere.

SAs will start aflowing.

Take care
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Tywin Lannister
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2003, 07:28:22 AM »

Quote
You've got to start the story somewhere. TROS, being all lovely and mature, allows that rare freedom for players to carve out their own direction, destiny.... A PC ends up fighting for what he cares about, not what the DM forces him to. That being the case, you, as a senseschal, are still gonna worry about fitting the PC varied SAs into your plot.


And that's the beauty of it - players actually have a degree of control in the direction of the plot. It doesn't mean that the gamemaster can't add his or her personal preferences (specific NPCs, locations, whatever).

In my current campaign, we did it as follows:

1. I created a background story with which to open the campaign. In essence, the brother of a PC was recently murdered. In addition, I decided that this PC was a noble, and that other PCs would be characters attached to the noble's ruling House.

2. Other players had more leeway in deciding which kind of character to play, as long as it fit with the already GM-created noble character. One of the player chose to be the son of the castle's own blacksmith ;-) and other players have later played House Knights.

3. Knowing this beforehand, players easily created Spiritual Attributes partially linked to each other (For instance, a character with the Passion "Be loyal to the Royal House" - thus ensuring character cooperation).

From this, I learned that a good way to deal with this problem is:

Create a "Prologue" to the campaign where players get their first taste of what's to come, THEN let them work out relationships and SAs.
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