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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Paul Czege on December 17, 2008, 06:07:09 PM



Title: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Paul Czege on December 17, 2008, 06:07:09 PM
I recently manufactured myself an opportunity to run 3:16, by prepping three planets prior to the December monthly open-house at a private boardgaming club, arranging to borrow some badass painted and pimped out WH40K space marine figures, and letting it be known that I was bringing hot marine action to the open house.

And I got five players.

In my prep I did diverge from the rules in one minor detail: I didn't use the painter names for the planets. Oh, I totally love that the game has a naming scheme. But in fact, I love naming schemes (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=69.msg2725#msg2725) so much that I really needed to have my own. So for this game I pulled planet names and names for NPCs from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy's list of illegal drug trade street terms (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms/default.asp).

So I had planets named Girlfriend, Yellow Bam, and Nickelonia, and NPCs with names like Capt. Bag, Lt. Finajet ("I am Lieutenant Finajet. You can call me Lieutenant Jet."), Lt. Super C, Sgt. Tardust, and troopers Bambalacha, Birdhead, Halfgee, Nile, Roche, and Worm. And I enjoyed the hell out of doing the prep.

It's the actual running of the game where I foundered (and failed). It was a flat flat flat play experience. The one female player, who's a big fan of PtA, likened it (in post-game conversation) to the tedium of her years of combat-based D&D3e experiences.

So okay, a confession before I get into the details. I've read Starship Troopers, Bill the Galactic Hero, and The Forever War. They're awesome. They're the main reason I find 3:16 such a compelling game. I've seen military and space military films, Aliens, and Platoon, and Black Hawk Down. And I was a player for one planet in a game of 3:16 John Harper ran at Gen Con. But I've never internalized the interpersonal dynamic of the cinematic military. John and Eero and the crew in the 3:16 game at Gen Con were all solidly awesome at being cinematic military personalities. My dysfunctional posse back in high school could all quote probably the entirety of the dialogue from Full Metal Jacket. Not me. So I went into the game expecting to rely on everyone else's character immersion to inspire my own efforts.

And they didn't.

Not a one of their characters actually ever did anything socially interesting. From past experience I'd figured it was a safe bet players would be good at military personalities. And I was wrong. So I actually wasn't very good at being Lt. Jet and the other NPC officers and troopers.

I don't, however, think this is why the game was flat. But in the interests of disclosure I bring it up, in case someone wants to contend that it was.

Okay, first was Planet Girlfriend. AA: lowest NFA+1, which turned out to be 4. A gorgeous, sun drenched water world, with towering coral reefs, and arches, and twisty white sand bars. The mission to retrieve a data probe. The aliens: artificial life forms (they're snails, basically, that have built tiny pale silicone anthropoid bodies for themselves that have long double-forked, muscular stinger tails). Special ability: Ambush.

I'm not a dumb guy. It was obvious I needed to provoke the players to use their Strengths, or preferably, their Weaknesses, if I wanted to see them develop. And I tried mightily. I used the recommended Threat Token breakdown from p. 29 in the book for four encounters. But the players quickly figured out the logic of the highest rolling successful marines taking their kills and the marine immediately preceding the aliens choosing to cancel all subsequent successes. Ambush did let me chip at their health levels, but with judicious use of Armor by a couple of them, and the strategy of cancelling my successes, the aliens never really had them on the ropes. With five players it was like they were getting five chances to roll better than me. And even when they chose an action that was an NFA roll, rather than a roll that could produce kills, they never wanted the outcome so bad they wouldn't instead choose to cancel my success if their roll was greater than mine.

Next was Planet Yellow Bam. AA: Highest NFA-2, which also turned out to be 4. And it was the same story. The aliens were shadow beasts with the force weakness ability. They haunted an ancient, abandoned, sandstone city under a low sun that cast long shadows. And there was a unit of NPC marines who'd determined there weren't any aliens, had stopped wearing their MandelBrite suits, and who were encouraging of the player marines to join their relaxed bivouac on a long colonnade.

It was, without the Ambush ability, even less of health threat than Girlfriend. I burned through tokens trying to use the force weakness ability, but got cancelled every single time. I roleplayed the fuck out of lovely Trooper Nile, in her gauzy dress, inviting the player marines to sit and enjoy the afternoon. But failed to provoke any character play, anything socially interesting, anything but one-dimensional focus on clearing the level.

The final mission, Planet Nickelonia, was my favorite of the three I'd prepped for evening. It was Lowest FA+1, which turned out to be 5. A forested volcanic world. The aliens were furry creatures I'd decided were three eyed apes. Their special ability was boost. I delivered a mission briefing:

"They're savages. They tore a well guarded survey crew limb from limb." Finajet shows photo of snarling ape, with bared teeth, and three eyes. Plan is to use an orbital laser bombardment to open up a lava flow. Unit is to slay all survivors forced forward by the lava flow. Cpl. Bluelip and troopers Halfgee and Roche (all NPCs) will establish rocketpod emplacement. "The rest of you will enter the forest."

And I played it as powerfully to the hilt as I could. The burning forest. The smoke. The terrified apes fleeing wildly from the destruction of their village. I blew tokens aggressively on boost. With the first use of boost, I described the apes as walking more upright. With the second, they spoke the human language. "Why are you doing this? Our home." The penultimate encounter was a baby three-eyed ape who'd fallen into a sinkhole. His mother clinging to exposed roots, stretching and trying to reach down to her still infant. And troopers Halfgee and Roche, having abandoned their post, also trying to help. The player marines, just as non-dimensional as they'd been the whole evening, slew them all.

Across all three planets I'd provoked a grand total of one use of a Strength, one or two uses of Armor, and not a single Weakness.

And you know what? I'd misread the rules. When I did manage to inflict a kill on the players I imposed it on those with lower value successes, as well as those with failures. If I'd not missed the rule that the kills only apply to marines who rolled failures, it would have been even more of a blowout.

To a man the players thought it was meh. They wanted more character play.

What the hell should I do differently? I'm inclined to think much of the problem was the number of players, and argue the AA calculations should take the number of players into account. Also, I'm thinking maybe NFA rolls between missions should have some mechanical footprint. As it stands, they're just color; they felt frivolous, and I never managed to do anything interesting with them.

The starting characters are sketchy. I wanted to see them develop by provoking their Weaknesses (or Strengths), or by provoking divisions in their ranks, or soul searching in response to the missions. And I failed on all fronts.

Advice?

Paul


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 17, 2008, 08:04:23 PM
Your experience mirrors other groups I've known to have played 3:16. The game is quite vanilla in its mechanical approach, so much so that I could characterize it as "doing nothing" when it comes to structuring and provoking interesting character interaction. All interactive color and character development I've witnessed in my 3:16 play has, without exception, happened because the players (GM included) have started and encouraged a cycle of character-full banter on top of the rather character-neutral mission structure.

To wit, did you run between-missions scenes and provoke choices from the players in regards to their relationships? All 3:16 GMs I've known, myself included, do a lot of NFA-based scenes that give the character in-fiction perks and an opportunity for characterization, not to speak of giving a more complete picture of the various NPCs the PCs work with in the army. Once we've established that the sarge is a jerk, this guy doesn't take war seriously and this one is a bumbling incompetent (all very naturally occurring conclusions when you let the team compete on the firing range, clean equipment, try to hack the food processor or whatnot), the rest falls into place if the players are interested in coloring their mission play with character personality. If not, the game goes nowhere.

So basically 3:16 is just not very aggressive in directing players around. If you're going to continue with the game, chances are that the players will start to grow into this largely non-mechanical "freeform" component of the experience out of frustration with the process; ideally, of course, you'd get there more naturally, and most groups seem to do so relatively quickly. In that regard I'd perhaps like to point a little bit towards the first culprit you dismissed, the lack of military genre characterization - if nobody is interested in these color elements and into nurturing the personalities of their characters into something that has a separate existence from the military machine they're part of, then the game isn't going anywhere.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Thor on December 17, 2008, 08:13:15 PM
I was one of the players in the game (Hi Paul) and it has occurred to me that there were two things that went wrong.  One I think we could fix through practice and the other was the make up of the group. The first was that the cool power on planet girlfriend was the ambush, which you went to all the time; that made us feel powerless in a system which we weren't comfortable with. Taking damage at the start of every encounter led to the initial action of the second problem. When Melanie's character blew her armor we fell into the joke about her being topless, and that humor was easier to keep up than the serious pretense of the game. We were a bunch of people who more or less didn't know each other and had no expectations about the game other than bug hunting. You really did try to keep it serious but the jokes just out numbered you. That we weren't taking it very seriously didn't make the pathos you brought to the table as strong as you wanted it. The base absurdity that the setting has requires a lot of shared desire to disbelieve together.

Jet who obviously didn't know what was going, and wasobviously on sending us into a deathtrap. That didn't make it easy to take the game seriously.  If we went into the first planet feeling that the mission was serious and we felt in capable and the play re-enforced that feeling then we would have reached farther when stuff went south in other missions. But, after the first planet it was too easy to hide our disapointment in the humor rather than  thinking the game was broken.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Moreno R. on December 17, 2008, 10:38:25 PM
Your experience mirrors other groups I've known to have played 3:16. The game is quite vanilla in its mechanical approach, so much so that I could characterize it as "doing nothing" when it comes to structuring and provoking interesting character interaction. All interactive color and character development I've witnessed in my 3:16 play has, without exception, happened because the players (GM included) have started and encouraged a cycle of character-full banter on top of the rather character-neutral mission structure.

My experience with the game confirm - in negative - what Eero say here. Every single successful actual play of 3:16 that I read was based on a lot of "freeform roleplaying" from the players and the GM that masked the simplicity of the system underneath, a roleplaying fueled by a lot of military color.

When I did try to GM the game, I wasn't able to use the military color (every single player at that game, including me, was a civil objector. Or a woman, exempt from draft), and I really dislike the role of the GM as the "entertainer" that show off to entertain the players, so it was a remarkably "flat" experience.

It's something I experienced before in other systems where the role-playing is "on top" of a system , but independent from it (like Contenders, for example). Even if we usually are a group that really enjoy roleplaying the barter and the relationship between characters, that disconnection with the rules make it seems almost "not important" and useless, even if we rationally know that it's instead the only way to enjoy the game.  Did you feel something similar, Paul, or you are talking about a different problem?


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 17, 2008, 11:15:11 PM
Hey Paul,

First, you didn't misread the rules. When the Aliens succeed on their AA, damage is inflicted on all characters who rolled equal to or under their roll, and all players who fail. Only those who succeed with a roll higher than the Aliens' roll are exempt from damage.

Secondly, if your players are always canceling before the aliens, then just ouch! You can't do much for that. I think probably they weren't getting into the competitive spirit of the game. Letting your fellow players get injured, or possibly killed, is a valid tactic in the game. As is canceling to avoid letting them get kills. As is canceling to save them from dying. Cohesive team play works fine in the game, but you'll lose a lot of the mechanical threat if your players are willing to sacrifice getting their kills. Also, if they're constantly canceling to save each other's asses, then obviously you're not going to be able to force them to use Strengths or Weaknesses to save their own asses.

Third, if your highest AA was a 5, then doubly ouch. 5 and lower makes it hard to present much of a threat. Get a 6 and things tip in your favor, giving you a 50% chance of succeeding. Get an 8 or higher, and you'll be hurting them, badly and often.

Fourth, going back to that competitive spirit: PvP is where it's fucking AT in this game. In the two missions I played at GenCon, we didn't have any real PvP, but there were building tensions that would definitely have ended up with it if we'd continued to play with that group. In the three sessions I ran in Kuwait, there wasn't a mission that didn't go by without troopers shooting at or in some other way confronting other troopers.

Fifth and finally, not having real investment in the military mindset hurt you at least a little. It's that sense of entitlement (deserved or not) of ranking officers and the willfulness of subordinates that drives much of the tension in the game. If your SGTs and CPLs don't feel the need to impose their will on their idiot TPRs, and the TPRs don't feel some pressure to tell their leaders to go fuck themselves, whether or not they do, the game loses a lot. It might end up that the SGT has his squad's best interests at heart, and the imposition of his will is for their own good, and it may be that the TPRs swallow their rebellion because they respect their leaders, but the tension has to be there.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Gregor Hutton on December 18, 2008, 02:42:06 AM
Thanks for posting this AP and the detailed notes on it, Paul.

I'll have to think about this one.

The first thing that leaps into my mind is that you seem to want one thing (the group to jump in and be militaristic) while the rest of the group seems very defensive in their mode of play (maybe in reaction to the unknown?) and are unwilling to do that. From reading above I think you are doing a fine job of playing NPCs and making planets and interesting aliens, but the players don't seem to be engaging in "revelling in the kill-happy machismo" of the setting. Would that be fair? It seems like risk-aversive play.

Oh, Lance is right about the Aliens killing rule, and you did it right in the game.

I'd suggest grabbing a really high AA (just picking 10) or only the highest choices from the list so that you have a good chance of beating the rolls of the PCs. But I'm worried that the group would just be defensive to that too, and feel you were being unfair to them or something.

Anyway, thanks for posting and I'll have a think about it. I'm happy to read any other thoughts people have about this.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Pelgrane on December 18, 2008, 06:28:55 AM
My suggestions:

1. Make the Lt come down on the Sarge with arbitrary orders which make the Trooper PCs want to disobey. Initiate NFA emotional conflicts. For example, order them not to use grenades, order them to close to zero range and use grenades, tell them to go onto the planet without armour, demand they split up, or test new combat drugs. Split the corporal from the Sarge. Make them want to frag the lieutentant.
2. If the creatures aren't a threat just boost em up. Add more tokens, boost the AA, make it very hard to win without Strengths or Weaknesses. Don't be afraid to kill them.
3. Reward NFA rolls with FA bonuses.
4. Give them missions which require NFA rolls in addition to killing the aliens.
5. Use the conflicting orders to bring intra-party conflict.
6. Even have the Lt try to kill one of them for disobeying orders.
7. Make one of them the Lt's pet. That really works.

You can do almost every conflict with NFA - push to difficult choices.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Paul Czege on December 18, 2008, 06:55:19 AM
Hey Simon,

6. Even have the Lt try to kill one of them for disobeying orders.

Not possible between missions without an AA for me to be rolling against, right?

Paul



Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Pelgrane on December 18, 2008, 07:02:02 AM
Hey Simon,

6. Even have the Lt try to kill one of them for disobeying orders.

Not possible between missions without an AA for me to be rolling against, right?

Paul



Someone more knowledgeable than me can confirm this, but I'm pretty sure you can do this at any time.



Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Gregor Hutton on December 18, 2008, 11:20:21 AM
Hi Paul

I've had a think today and partly the problem is that 4, 4 and 5 as AA, one after the other, is simply not challenging enough to shake up the party into being forced to use Flashbacks. These are planets where the odds are very strong that the players will cause carnage in relative safety. But those low choices are ticked off the list now.

I would pick high numbers from the list, say 10, or the highest FA (7, 8 or 9 by now?). I would also pick things like Lasting Wounds or Ignore Armour. They will be tough, tough planets. Page 47 talks about picking AA and which choices will be tough early or late in a campaign.

I tend to ask for NFA rolls to see if anyone is sick on dropping to the planet, for working out where they are on the world and so on. Rolling with how the dice go, and irritating the party over the intercom from orbit (a bit like the example at the back of the book).

I wouldn't start threatening to have them killed by NPCs. They'll find the NPCs they want to kill in play, over time, if they are engaging with the fiction and finding imaginary characters they do/don't get along with.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: agony on December 18, 2008, 06:56:34 PM
This is kind of re-iterating what others have said but I've found 3:16 most enjoyable when Command dicks with the grunts.  Piss them off and then stick your ass out in the wind and let them blow it off if they dare.  The conflicting orders is good advice, I really like the combat drugs idea.  Stuff like John Harper's Alpha Protocol where he had Command order the troopers to open up their air vents and expose their lungs to the planet's atmoshpere are brilliant and where this game really shines.

Oh, and have the senior ranking Player deliver the shitty orders and be responsible for enforcing them.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Graham W on December 18, 2008, 07:17:47 PM
Paul,

My feeling is that the problem isn't mechanical. When I've played, the best bit is the player-vs-player stuff.

For example: I leave a fight early, landing everyone else in shit, and then everyone else turns on me. The mechanics are used there, of course, but what really counts is the stuff we injected: I chose to land everyone else in shit, everyone else chose to turn on me.

The question is how to foster that as a GM.

I think Simon's right. It's things like making one of them the Lieutenant's pet; giving difficult orders ("kill the civilians!") that some will follow and some won't; telling one soldier to spy on another; bribing one of the soldiers with a bigger gun. As GM, you want to provoke them into that player-vs-player stuff, not using the mechanics, but by adding things into the fiction.

In that sense, I think there's something very old-school about 3:16. The GM can lead the game and provoke the players.

Graham


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: greyorm on December 19, 2008, 01:32:14 AM
Ron stated in a previous 3:16 thread -- "You can't tell me you guys don't know what to do with this when you used to sit around writing eighty pages of setting material" -- regarding complaints from Seth and myself that we didn't quite know what to do with the game, particularly the later stages of the game.

I wasn't sure what to make of that response, or how precisely to put it to work as a solution--though I did see value in the statement--so I let it drop. But then Paul and Eero made a couple of statements here that clarified why I was finding that advice both difficult to implement as a solution despite agreeing with its principle, that I think might have a bearing on the overall discussion here regarding "ok, how do I make this work?"

Quote
The game is quite vanilla in its mechanical approach, so much so that I could characterize it as "doing nothing" when it comes to structuring and provoking interesting character interaction. All interactive color and character development I've witnessed in my 3:16 play has, without exception, happened because the players (GM included) have started and encouraged a cycle of character-full banter on top of the rather character-neutral mission structure.

Quote
I'm thinking maybe NFA rolls between missions should have some mechanical footprint. As it stands, they're just color; they felt frivolous, and I never managed to do anything interesting with them.

Still recognizing that that populating and detailing the setting so story and event arises and flows naturally from it, I'm going back to Ron's response and realizing "detail a setting" actually isn't the issue with "what do we do now?" The issue isn't creating or populating or imagining the setting, but specifically using the rules of this game to play in and interact with such a setting.

That's the issue I'm running headfirst into while trying to prep/understand the rules for 3:16, which leads to, "Well, ok, and...what does that do? Why would the players care to do that? How do we accomplish that?"

Paul's and Eero's experience clicked this issue together more coherently for me, leading me to describe the problem as:

Reading the text was like having a bunch of pieces of a sports car engine dumped in my lap, being told what they all did in the engine, but without being told where they all went or how they interacted or should interact (except based on what could be logically guessed and inferred from what I'm told each does).

So I have this awesome car engine sitting in my lap. This thing will make a car go! I have no clue how, but it will if I get all the pieces where they should "naturally" be. Problem being, I'm not a mechanic. I have no idea where they should naturally be, even with information like "the spark plugs drive the pistons" I end up at a loss, because: what do those things look like? And how are they supposed to do that?

It feels to me as though 3:16 is put together the same way Ron has stated Sorcerer is: it works great out-of-the-box for people who can see how this particular engine is supposed to be put together to make it go, but it doesn't seem to work or doesn't seem to make sense if you don't have that insight into the pieces and what to do with them.

So, when the cry went up: "I can't figure out what to do with the sparkplug!" And the response was: "Come on, I know you guys know sparkplugs should ignite the vaporized gas!" It was true, but it didn't show where the sparkplug went in this particular engine block configuration, how to actually set the timings, etc.

It seems to me the current rules, while mechanically complete, are not complete as a game manual, leading to repeat discussions of "How do we run the game so it does the stuff it talks about making happen in the text?" and the following stream of solutions offered of how to run play so it does work the described-outcome way, along with explanations of why the players need to behave this or that way or make certain choices or the game won't do that...none of which appear to be detailed in the book as necessary procedures of play (and should be?).

I'm not sure what recommendations might be made as a solution in the above case, or if the solution might still be argued as "just make a setting" and I am simply over-thinking the issues, or even missing some blindingly obvious resolution or explanation in the rules.

I know that isn't exactly an answer to Paul's question, but I'm throwing it up for discussion because I think it has a bearing on the primary source of the problem and various comments made about the game in this thread.

However, I do also offer Paul the following idea as concrete-and-immediate advice for making play go the intended direction: it occurred to me after a very weird dream about space-military earlier tonight, that one solution to the "players wouldn't screw with each other" problem would be to put each player's soldier in a separate attack group ("squad"?), surrounded by very different personalities you as GM can play up, and have each squad given different tasks to complete in the overall mission -- but near enough to one another to either help others' missions, or to fuck it up for everyone else.

You might get a sort of "Why can't you keep your squad under control?!" or just "Those idiots from Bravo squad really screwed everyone else over!" effect that will help drive player conflicts and competition. Especially given that it is only the choices and rolls and mechanical decisions of the player in that squad that actually matter to the combat's resolution, not the color/obstacles/choices provided by his squadmates.

The trick here is simply running combats as normal, where all players are involved (mechanically), but where each player has a soldier in a different squad in a different battle-zone of that combat. I'm thinking of something along the lines of the big fight on Coral at the end of "Old Man's War" by Scalzi, which is full of "squad A does this, but if they fuck it up, squad B is going to be screwed and their mission will fail, so squad C better make sure squad A doesn't get hosed" and various actions and attempts that are definitely non-trivial NFA rolls, etc.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Pelgrane on December 19, 2008, 03:50:25 AM
I
What the hell should I do differently? I'm inclined to think much of the problem was the number of players, and argue the AA calculations should take the number of players into account. Also, I'm thinking maybe NFA rolls between missions should have some mechanical footprint. As it stands, they're just color; they felt frivolous, and I never managed to do anything interesting with them.

Paul

Well, the explicit mechanical effects of NFA rolls are that:
1 If you lose an NFA conflict against a superior rank, you have to follow a particular order. This can have major effects. For example, you can order them to go into combat first, not wear their armour, give their drugs to another trooper, or allow an alien to infect them.
2. NFA roles can mechanically affect the outcome of future FA rolls, giving a bonus.
3. You might be able to use them to steal items or sabotate stuff or interfere with comms.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 19, 2008, 11:03:45 AM
Am I the only one who thinks that recommending direct mechanically impactful stakes for NFA conflics, and ones outside mission no less, is against the rules are they appear in the book? I never got an inkling that the purpose would be to creatively redesign the resource environment in the interest of getting some characters killed off. One would imagine that if ordering troopers to leave their armor and drugs home were a standard GMing technique or even an option, then there'd be some hint of this in the rules.

When I've played the game we haven't required between-missions NFA rolls to have any meaningful impact on trooper success in missions (and therefore game mechanics in general - this game only has mechanics for in-mission activity). Those rolls have been purely an oracular method for inspiring some freeform character development. I asked about this at Story Games at one point, actually, when I got to wondering how one should deal with characters who refuse to follow orders. The prevailing truth seemed to be that the game's formal structure is followed by necessity, there are no "missing rules" for figuring out how many tokens you need to kill to blast your way to the bridge and sabotage the ship before escaping to live with aliens. I can only presume that the end-game events which the rules hint at are played out with a liberal amount of free narration. Using that star-killing doomsday weapon is not a mechanical challenge, for example, but just a matter of deciding to use it.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Paul Czege on December 19, 2008, 12:49:23 PM
Graham Walmsley and I came to some insights about 3:16 in conversation via IM yesterday. He's seen it played well more than I have. Here's a summary:

When you see 3:16 played well, there's lots of character play between missions, and between encounters. If you're not understanding 3:16, this looks like players and the GM simply characterizing their characters. It looks a lot like the fun you see players bring to trad convention games, a quick facility at portraying their characters for the entertainment of the group. It looks like frivolous fun making. But in 3:16 it is more than what it looks like.

The character play in 3:16 concerns itself with the interpersonal dysfunctions of military operations. When you see 3:16 played well, what looks like mostly free-form character play is actually players who've bought into the game's military context engaging in very important back-and-forth defining and building of that context.

So for 3:16 to work, you need two things, both of which I didn't have when I ran it:

    1. Players need to buy in to the shared defining of the military context as an important part of the game.
    2. The GM needs to understand and be creative with the bait he has at his disposal, and the orders he gives the players within the military context.

When I ran the game I failed to recognize the importance of player buy-in to shared defining of the military context.

I saw what Eero, John, and the crew in the game at Gen Con were doing merely as fun character play. Graham thinks the Reputations are a key driver here. When you put Reputations like Loyal, Drunkard, Coward, and Bloodthirsty together with player buy-in to the military context, you can't help but begin the shared building and defining of the military context. So, I might have succeeded if I'd been able to drive some character play via my own understanding of dysfunctional military personalities, some shared defining of the military context could have happened as an effect of the character play. But, as I wrote above, my ability to do dysfunctional military personalities is undeveloped.

And I failed understand the workings of bait and inter-mission scenes and orders.

I don't know whether Simon is accurate that failing an NFA roll against a superior officer is like failing to resist a Command in My Life with Master, as my 3:16 book is loaned out. But I did read it carefully, and that wasn't my impression. Still, it doesn't matter one way or the other. Lots of folks have made suggestions on this thread about the bait the GM has at his disposal. Graham suggested in our conversation that an officer might offer a trooper a weapon upgrade. It's clear that when some folks read the game text they just know how all the in-game bits of weapons and rank and orders can work for the GM as incentives and pressures to drive the progressive defining of the military context. I didn't get this when I read the text. But with players who're bought into the shared defining of the military context, it's this stuff that's the fuel. (And this thread's a great resource, so thanks.)

So yeah, I'm the perfect storm of bad for 3:16. But y'know, that's now clearly why the game has my attention. It's an opportunity for me to develop as a gamer.

Maybe it's time to rent Full Metal Jacket...

Paul


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Valamir on December 19, 2008, 01:44:13 PM
Paul, I don't have quite as much 3:16 experience as some, but yes.  I can confirm all of the above in the sessions I've played as well.

Reputations are extremely important and its important that everyone knows what they are.

Here's an example from a GenCon session where Alexander N. really set the tone for the upcoming interactions.  He barked out each step in the character creation process like a Drill Sergeant ("And now you have an FA, FA is Fighting Ability, do not make me explain what Fighting Ability means, if you do not understand the Ability to Fight you are too stupid to be a Marine" that sort of thing).  When he got to Reputations:  "You each have a Reputation, when I call on you, you will give it to me and it will be added to your file..."  When he got to me, I didn't have a Reputation picked out yet (cuz I was trying to be all clever and he gave us like no time) he said "Very Well, your Reputation is that you're Stupid Git, because you are, in fact, a stupid git...any questions? There better not be".

That sort of thing. 

And yes...learn to talk like R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket and you'll know how to talk to your 3:16 players as GM...and the end of that movie will show you exactly why this leads to the kind of Conflict you're currently lacking.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 19, 2008, 08:52:25 PM
Ohhhh yes... In-character character-creation is a must. The game begins immediately once you sit them down in front of their character sheets. I wasn't the barking Drill Instructor, though. I was the bored lieutenant, processing in his new troopers.

"Write down a name. I don't even care if it's your real name, just write it down, so we know what to call you."

"Alright, I want you to tell me, in very general terms, how good you are at fight compared to how good you are at everything else. Just, I don't know, divide 10 points up between the two, and write it down. No, I don't care about the details. Just write it down. No, obviously you can't have a 1 in either one, because that would mean you're too stupid to breathe or too incompetent to be in the TEF."


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Pelgrane on December 20, 2008, 09:15:37 AM
I don't know whether Simon is accurate that failing an NFA roll against a superior officer is like failing to resist a Command in My Life with Master, as my 3:16 book is loaned out.
Paul

The rules reference is on page 46 "the winner can impose an order on the loser", and this applies equally to superior PC and NPC ranks. We found this rule rather useful, as it appears to give officers power over troopers, but really just makes them resentful and try to twist the orders.


Simon


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: matthijs on December 21, 2008, 04:35:58 AM
Paul, I think you're absolutely right with regards to the military context. To me, the status play within the strict boundaries of rank order etc are at least as important as the mission play within the boundaries of the conflict system. They're two different games that feed into each other.

I've only played this game once, but it was a very good session. I think we all intuitively (or by blind luck) grabbed onto the military status game straight away. As GM, I gave the first mission briefing in-character as a nervous officer who clearly had little or no information about the mission, showing one dysfunction. A higher-ranking NPC later went into "sly politician" mode, trying to hose the players when the orders he gave them backfired. Two of the players got into a very intense in-character fight between missions, which almost ended badly due to some physical play.

All these things happened between missions; the players went into the missions knowing they were part of a fucked up system, and with some potential authority problems just below the surface waiting to explode.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Tomas HVM on December 22, 2008, 02:07:07 AM
So I went into the game expecting to rely on everyone else's character immersion to inspire my own efforts.

And they didn't.
In my view the key to understanding your failure lies in this, Paul. You went into a GM-driven game as a GM expecting the players to be the motor of the game. It may be due to some misunderstood idea of "leaving the field to the players". The idea is sound enough in itself, but it depends heavily on "a field" to be created. In this kind of game "the field" has to be created by you; the GM.

So your attitude was flawed. Still: when the game turned sour you still could have salvaged it. You desrcibe the players as joking and being not-serious. That is fine! As a GM you may tap into their mode of play, and turn it. To "tap into it" may be done by making jokes yourself, preferrably with in-game characters. Use the NPC's to cater for jokes in-game, and soon you will have the players joking their heads off in-character.

- And then you introduce a high-strung non-joking officer, who goes off about their jokes being detrimental to morale, and gives them a lecture about the seriousness of the business of slaughtering aliens. "We are here to save mankind, not to make silly jokes!!!"

- After this lecture you shift back to the joking NPC again, and ally yourself with the players in vilifying the officer who don't understand the joke, or the harsh reality that makes such jokes necessary. "What the fuck does he expect of us? To cry for the motherfucking aliens? We make jokes cause that's the only way to survive this shit!!!"

- By this time you should see the players being fully immersed in the game with you, and from there on you may open the field for whatever they comes up with, or whatever comes to your mind.

Hope this helps you understand why it went wrong, and how the game may have been salvaged. Any slackness in attitude of the GM will endanger any GM-driven game.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 22, 2008, 07:25:55 AM
Hello,

I am skeptical of much of the advice offered in the past page of posts. The funny thing is, I agree with all of it. But at best it's speculative, and given Paul's account of what he did do in play, I'm reading it as "what you did, just more of it." I'm not sure how any mission situation, for instance, could have emphasized the relevant buy-in more than the three-eyed ape baby scene. And in my experience of the game, players engaged immediately, with full commitment to the various nuances of satire, adventure, competition, and more, with much less introductory material than he provided pre-mission.

I think one variable's getting missed: for its most obvious expression, how people respond to the phrase "kill-happy machismo" as on the back cover. The interior text even says to read that to the players and they'll get how to play. This may be an American/European thing, or maybe not, but to some readers, that phrase cannot be anything except critical of the military, dubious at most of any interventionist military mission, and aware of the weird blend of complicity and victimization of the soldiers themselves. Whereas to others, it means ... well, kill-happy machismo. Clearing the gooks from the hamlet, and making sure the grandmother gets a couple in the belly so she can't blow up Bob from Kankakee with her concealed hand-grenade. Kicking some ass so the world can see. Teaching the sand-niggers a lesson they'll never forget, because they were too stupid to take the hint last time. Yes, that ugly. That stupid. That literal.

One possible angle of discussion would concern Full Metal Jacket and Paul's friends from his earlier gaming days, but I fear that will become too focused on the film and fandom of the film, rather than on this game, so I log it here for follow-up later, maybe.

I want to stress that I'm not talking about soldiers as players; in fact, based on several Forge members' accounts of role-playing in-country, their games tend to be very strong on the kind of satirical, gonzo-but-bitter content that we're favoring in this thread, and which I'll bluntly say 3:16 is about. I'm talking about a non-military but military-excited mind-set.

My take on Paul's play-experience, keeping in mind I wasn't there and am only going by this thread's content, is that he did learn important lessons as he summarized himself, above, and needs no further advice. No first-play effort is perfect in my experience. My take is also that no further advice will be meaningful, especially when phrased in terms of a guarantee as Tomas did, because to a certain set of players (neither demographic nor subcultural; this is political in a sense long lost to the common use of that word), when you play military guys with big guns, you're there to shoot the enemy terrorists communists enemy gooks.

In those circumstances, I don't know what could possibly be done, and whatever could, it'd have to be at the outset of and introduction to play. I don't think correction could occur via in-play material at all.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Gregor Hutton on December 22, 2008, 09:44:39 AM
Thanks to Paul for the thread and taking the time over the game. I've read the posts and nodded along, and it's given me food for thought too. Anyway, I've been noodling on this over the weekend and I don't have anything to add that isn't covered, more succinctly, by Ron's post above.

As an explanation of the "buy-in" for myself -- I specifically wrote the book and made it look the way it does to excite the gamers I used to play 2300AD with back in the day. I reached back in my mind to what made those games exciting/interesting for them/me.

I'd hoped that the book, if I could do it right, will turn people way on to it (woohaaa!), or turn them way off (OK, that's not for me!). So, maybe just letting people absorb some of the feel of the book might help?

If you give it another go I'd be delighted to hear how it goes (good or bad) and any thoughts that you have based on your experience (not mine or anyone else's) of the game. That would be much appreciated.

Cheers,
Gregor


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Tomas HVM on December 22, 2008, 09:57:52 AM
I disagree with Ron, heartily! The advice you have gotten here, Paul, is yours to sift through and/or test. Good luck in your next carnage amongst the stars!


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 22, 2008, 10:59:45 AM
Tomas,

Please try to communicate rather than announce when you post here. I do not say this in order to argue with you but so I can gain insight from what you say.

I cannot understand your post. It's especially confusing because I stated in my post that I agree with all the advice given so far. To disagree with that means arguing against what you said yourself. Alternately, I provided an additional variable. Is that what you disagree with? To claim that the reflexive literal reading doesn't occur, is hard to credit.

Gregor, have you run into this issue in actual play? If so, what did you do?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Tomas HVM on December 22, 2008, 11:54:09 AM
My take on Paul's play-experience, keeping in mind I wasn't there and am only going by this thread's content, is that he did learn important lessons as he summarized himself, above, and needs no further advice. No first-play effort is perfect in my experience.
You may have the experience that every first-play effort is flawed. My experience is different. Intelligent appliance of the game method and your own experience will give you a high chance of success even with new games. Strive for excellence!

You state that Paul need no further advice. My take is that he may say so himself, if and when he is satisfied. How can you tell what kind of meaningful advice may surface here?

My take is also that no further advice will be meaningful, especially when phrased in terms of a guarantee as Tomas did, ...
I gave no "guarantee". I predict a scenario if he follows up on my advice, but he is still responsible for his own game-sessions as a GM. There is no guarantee.

Sorry if I came out as dismissive towards your post, Ron, but I answered in kind.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Paul Czege on December 22, 2008, 12:08:15 PM
Hey Tomas,

I can say with confidence that I didn't expect the players to be the motor of the game. Matt Snyder's style of running Dust Devils and Nine Worlds at conventions puts the players as the motor. I tried this with Nine Worlds at Origins this year and realized it doesn't suit me. In Nicotine Girls, My Life with Master, and Acts of Evil, the GM is an active force relative to the players. In Bacchanal, the system delivers the adversity. I don't design games where the GM can be merely a facilitator of player energy. And after trying it with Nine Worlds I wouldn't have gone that route with 3:16. It doesn't suit me.

And I didn't go into the game with a slackness of attitude. I prepped the hell out of the game. What I did expect was that the players would more naturally play into the military context than me, and that this would help me get into the mindset and render up the antagonism I planned to own and deliver.

I have two further thoughts on this:

1. I prepped and ran Lacuna last year, a single session consisting of two missions. I think it has similar challenges for me as 3:16. Both games are mission based, and in both the players start with sketchy characters programmed by our mass media with a cool lack of human empathy. So as GM in both I found myself working very hard to overcome player immersion in that lack of human empathy, to get the players to take a partisan interest in some of the NPCs. Ultimately, in Lacuna, I was successful near the end of the second mission. The players were clearly taking an interest in Senior Instructor Snyder, who I'd had blackmail their characters into going under on a secret mission in Blue City for his own personal political gain in the real world.

Upon reflection, I didn't really do much differently in prepping and running 3:16 than I did with Lacuna. Except somehow with Lacuna I was more successful at provoking player interest in the NPCs. What I'm not sure about is why.

2. Starship Troopers (the book), depicts a very internally benevolent military structure, in dramatic contrast to the sensibilities of most of the advice for depicting the military on this thread, and most of the Actual Play I've seen. If I'm right that shared defining of the military context is an important part of 3:16, then is it possible that play can actually define a benevolent military structure, and for the ultimate "hatred for home" to be other than sympathy for the bugs, but perhaps the rage of the Vietnam Vet who did everything his country asked of him, only to be vilified for it?

Paul


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 22, 2008, 12:36:16 PM
Tomas, your posting is now that of an asshole. Since I know you are not in fact an asshole, I am formally moderating to oblige you not to post in that way.

I did not dismiss your post. I pleaded to aid my understanding. To "respond in kind" in a dismissive way, as you describe it, is astonishingly rude - bordering on vicious, even.

Absolutely nothing in your response helped me understand you better. Instead, you nitpicked to invent points of contention, as well as patronized.

You are an adult, dealing with other intellectually active adults here. I refuse to believe you would post to your academic colleagues in this way, for instance. Alter your posting and communication at this website or your posts will be routinely placed in the Inactive File.

Do not reply to this post in any fashion. The discussion will continue solely regarding 3:16.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 22, 2008, 01:01:14 PM
Hi Paul,

Your #2 is interesting, but I think it's a stretch. I suppose if interaction with the public were part of things ... although that's definitely not featured in the text the way that fucked-up military interactions (not to mention surreally vicious policy) are featured.

I'm interested in the Starship Troopers connection, and I suppose it applies both to the original jingoistic novel and the different-but-same film. Ralph and I once discussed the difference between Starship Troopers and The Forever War - each of us thought one was boring (and stupid and politically naive) and the other fantastic, but not the same ones. I'm not saying this is some sort of alignment indicator; I know that Ralph doesn't play 3:16 in the reflexive kill-clear-butcher fashion either. What I'm saying is that our discussion highlighted differences within, for lack of a better word, American mythology concerning American military policy and experiences. (I should also stress that we were talking about our reactions upon reading the books as teenagers.)

So ... umm, to disentangle myself from what might have been an unhelpful paragraph, I was saying let's look at Starship Troopers. Is it really a good tag-line or introductory reference for 3:16 players? My thinking is not. I would instead choose The Forever War, Catch-22, and the original late-1940s G.I. Joe cartoons.

I recommend Bill Mauldin's book Up Front, written just after WWII. Mauldin was the cartoonist who invented G.I. Willie and G.I. Joe for the then-independent, even underground serviceman's newspaper, Stars and Stripes. According to the Spartacus website, "In 1945 General George Patton wrote a letter to the Stars and Stripes and threatened to ban the newspaper from his Third Army if it did not stop carrying 'Mauldin's scurrilous attempts to undermine military discipline.'" (Fascinating! The G.I. Joe material at Wikipedia does not reference Mauldin or the pre-1964 character at all! Also, most of the pics I've found on-line are pretty mild compared to the harsher ones in Up Front.)

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Tomas HVM on December 22, 2008, 03:30:49 PM
I can say with confidence that I didn't expect the players to be the motor of the game. ... And I didn't go into the game with a slackness of attitude. I prepped the hell out of the game. What I did expect was that the players would more naturally play into the military context than me, and that this would help me get into the mindset and render up the antagonism I planned to own and deliver.
I read you as such, Paul. Sorry if I misunderstood! It may sound harsh, the way I put it, but in my experience it is very common for GMs to lead games with a slackness of attitude. I've been a pro GM for 13 years now, and still I do it. The "slackness" I point at in the actual play report of yours, is the illusory idea that your players will own the game from the start.

In spite of your preparations, and in spite of the good design of 3:16 (yes, I consider it very good), you had a bad game-session. To me that underlines the importance of initiating the game with the right GM-stance. Be active, lead, include, ally and make use of every scrap of energy coming from the players (in this instance: the joking).

Most players are slow on the uptake, especially if the GM is vague or withdrawn in the initial stages of the game. When initiating a game-session, at least the first session with a group, you have to CREATE the field for them first, and then OPEN it up for their interactivity. This may be done very effectively, within the first 5 or 10 minutes, but with some themes and player-groups it may take longer.

Of course there may be other forces at play in the session you described, that makes my musings on this quite off the mark. But from what you write a flawed GM-stance seems the most obvious explanation.

Starship Troopers (the book), depicts a very internally benevolent military structure, in dramatic contrast to the sensibilities of most of the advice for depicting the military on this thread, and most of the Actual Play I've seen. If I'm right that shared defining of the military context is an important part of 3:16, then is it possible that play can actually define a benevolent military structure, and for the ultimate "hatred for home" to be other than sympathy for the bugs, but perhaps the rage of the Vietnam Vet who did everything his country asked of him, only to be vilified for it?
To be open of mind when working with a theme is essential. Most people tend to go for the popular charicature, and goes no further. The fact that you are mindful of distinctive approaches to this theme tells me you have what it takes to go longer and reach deeper in your games, Paul.

I have played you game "My Life With Master" and found that to be a very strong design. Pure in method and challenging in theme. Very nice gameplay!

The designers and GMs who dares to go further are the ones developing rpg's into something more than it already is. You are clearly amongst them, Paul.

This concludes it from me. Hope it illuminated something for you. Have a nice day!


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 22, 2008, 05:05:22 PM
I think I'm going to have to disagree with you on Paul's #2, Ron. I think 3:16 very ably supports that interpretation of Hatred For Home. It was, in fact, my first assumption on what it meant. I'll concede that sympathy for the aliens may have been what was in Gregor's mind when he made that, (he'd have to answer himself for us to be sure) but I think the strength of the game is that the play emerges based on the assumptions and values of the players.

Imagine being a young, patriotic and quite possibly psychopathic youngster enlisted for the 16th Brigade, 3rd Army, Terran Expeditionary Forces. Finally! Some adventure, something more than the boring luxury of Earth, and nothing to look forward to but ennui, despair and a suicide chamber. Not only that, but you get adventure and glory in a good cause, protecting the riches of the mother world from the avaricious eyes that watch from the stars!

Then you get out there, and you're mistreated, like you're the worthless scum of the Earth, rather than a selfless hero. You're put into harm's way, and your rewards are dismissively granted. Corruption reigns in the upper ranks, and you begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, the psych evals weren't very thorough. That sadistic corporal watches you while you sleep, and you've started to lay awake nights, wondering what he plans for you. BUT! That corporal, the bossy sergeant, the arrogant lieutenant, and your equally disfunctional squad-mates are all you've got. You've saved each other's lives. Sure, you shot Trooper Valdez when he tried to steal your combat drugs, and you're pretty sure that Trooper Kee dropped that grenade in your lap on purpose.. But at least they're not the nameless, faceless higher ups who send you uncaring to your death, time and again.

Now you start gaining some rank. You get your orders. You begin to catch on to the real horridness of it. You, your young soldiers, your peers and your immediate subordinates may very be the scum of the earth, but you've also fought and died to save each other and to serve your planet. You realize that they don't care. They hate you, fear you, look down on you. They sent you away, and told the boss to never let you come back home. Baseball, apple pie and mom are all a lie. You start to kill the bugs, not just because you're told to, not just because you're a psychopath, not just to stay alive.. You kill them because you can't kill those sons of bitches that filled your head with tales of glory and honor, and sent you off to die brutally alone and afraid in the blackness. It's not sympathy for the travails of the aliens that drives you to hate your home. It's because home is worthy of your hatred.

If you survive to become Brigadier, and turn the fleet home to blow the shit out of the planet Earth, it's not because you want to save all the fuzzy-wuzzies of the galaxy from the vile human military. It's because you want to destroy those lying, no good, smug, self-righteous tree-hugging hippies. Because you're better than them. Because for all of your flaws (and the files listing your flaws take up terabytes upon terabytes of disc space), you didn't send the young off to die for your comfort.

...which at length is saying that Paul's #2 is by NO means a stretch.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Ron Edwards on December 22, 2008, 05:33:57 PM
Hi Lance,

That's a nuanced and deeper reading of #2 than #2, I think. Given the way you've stated it, I agree whole-heartedly.

Quote
They sent you away, and told the boss to never let you come back home. Baseball, apple pie and mom are all a lie. You start to kill the bugs, not just because you're told to, not just because you're a psychopath, not just to stay alive.. You kill them because you can't kill those sons of bitches that filled your head with tales of glory and honor, and sent you off to die brutally alone and afraid in the blackness. It's not sympathy for the travails of the aliens that drives you to hate your home. It's because home is worthy of your hatred.

Our views may be very close on this issue.

I think, even, that here you've stated something I agree with but didn't think of as #2. You might be reading a bit into what I was driving at, too; I don't think I said anything about sympathy for the aliens being involved for instance. The sources I referenced are all pretty much what you're saying in that quote, right on the money, to various degrees of intensity.

Best, Ron

edited because I was connection-cut in the middle - RE


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 22, 2008, 10:38:05 PM
My previous response was 1 part a refutation of your claim that #2 was a stretch, 1 part my interpretation (at length) of how the basic idea of #2 could be interpreted in 3:16, and 1 part textual diarrhea.

The main thrust was summed up early on in my post, in this line: "I think the strength of the game is that the play emerges based on the assumptions and values of the players."

Approach it with criticism of war and the reasons we go to war, and you'll get one type of game. Approach it with the feeling of how our brave and young are disillusioned and mistreated upon return, and you'll get another type of game entirely. Approach it with the concept that war is sometimes righteous and necessary, but sometimes it gets confusing as to when those times are, and you'll come back with a completely different experience. 3:16 is a Rorshak test of your feelings about war, hidden behind the words "kill-happy machismo".

There was a recent thread about how serious 3:16 should be played on S-G. Dude seemed to think that the game was *supposed* to be played as beer and pretzels, and that the deeper themes lurking beneath the surface were incidental and accidental, and really digging into them would be drifting the game. At least one other guy seemed to share that same assumption. That there were deeper issues possible was apparent, much like seeing the tip of an iceberg; you know there's more there, but you may not realize how much.

The beauty of it is that how much lies below the surface is completely subjective.. because that content isn't *in* the game, it's in your mind, and those of your fellow players. You're not digging deep into the game, you're digging deep into your collective thoughts, feelings and values.

All of which may be completely worthless for this particular thread, but I think it bears thought and discussion. I'm probably not the person to guide that discussion though, partially due to my cockamamie sleep/work schedule, and partly my tendency to write stream-of-consciousness about anything that fires my interest or imagination. Floor's yours and/or Paul's. I'll keep contributing as you guide the discussion, and hopefully I'll be able to make enough sense to be of value.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: greyorm on December 23, 2008, 04:14:27 AM
You sniveling maggots want to know how to run a real 3:16 campaign? I'll tell you how! You take a traditional seasonal theme, blowhard Faux News editorializing passed off as news, and go after that bastard Kris Kringle (http://valerhon.deviantart.com/art/The-War-On-Christmas-106820817) and his damned holiday elves! So get out there and kill some fat fuckin' faeries and bring the secular Christmas of your cherished childhood memories to its knees! Hoo-rah!

This is courtesy of my buddy Ran Ackels, and I'm tossing it up here because, as pointed out already by a couple folks, fiction that feels the way play should feel is the best primer for play: it informs play in ways that rules by themselves don't. It says: do stuff that sounds like and is meant to produce this. Yes, I also know it's a goofy example, but it is also faithful, which I think is the important part.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Gregor Hutton on December 23, 2008, 10:16:42 AM
Gregor, have you run into this issue in actual play? If so, what did you do?

Best, Ron

I've not run into this when running the game myself, or in the playtests. And in that I include a fair few games at conventions with people who don't know me (or all the other players in some cases) at all. Though this has made me reflect on what I actually do when I run the game, especially for people I don't know. Why does my enthusiasm rub off, while Paul's in this case didn't?

I have to say, I'd be totally jazzed to play 3:16 with Paul running it and those planets and NPCs.

Anyway, after thinking about it I can say that the book is written assuming you are a group of friends, who want to play the game and are interested in being "Troopers" as portrayed in the book (and there's a lot of latitude there). I haven't played the game with people uninterested in that, or at least who were open to playing at being a "space marine" and "jumping in" for a few hours.

I'll focus on my experiences from some UK conventions in the last few months, because there I have been playing with people almost always unknown to me.

I begin by showing them the book cover, flicking through some pages to show the art and reading out some of the quotes (I guess the ones in black boxes on pages 7, 14, 18 and 19 are the ones I hit most). Up front: we are playing a game about being Space Troopers in a war far from home, we'll find our characters in play, just play, be involved! By showing the front of the book I can read from the back too. And straight to character creation.

I make them tell everyone their name, and then Rep, out loud (often we might not know a player's real name now I think about it -- here you find the loud and quiet players). Then we allocate stats and get the ranks. I always make a point of going through Troopers first, then Corporal, then Sergeant and I read out the quotes from each rank too, while giving out equipment. I hand the book over so they can copy the stats and take in the look and feel of the book.

Then play begins. With louder groups they are often pumped up and start announcing that they are doing shit straight off the bat: working out, dealing drugs, cleaning their guns, masturbating into their rolled-up field manual (a real example), whatever.

For quieter groups, and I've had them like this at first, I pick someone, anyone, and tell them they are in the barracks on board their space ship: the SS <stick name in here> (Good Hope, Dread Victory, whatever flits into my mind). Then I ask them: what are you doing? ("Sleeping in my bunk") Who with? ("No one", "Well, who has the bunk above you?" "Jackson has the bunk below me. I'm on the top bunk." "Oh, top bunk guy, huh? What's Jackson doing?") and so on.

I get them to tell me what they are doing and I feed off that. I sometimes ask for an NFA roll just so we can see that rolling the dice isn't hard, and how to see a success from a failure. I don't stay too long here, but enough to have them "in character".

And I get to role-play the Troopers they have invented, I write the names down if they are memorable. (I find that the quieter groups use my names list more than the louder groups, but that's OK.)

And at some point I will have the Sergeant dragged off to a meeting about the planet. They all get to listen in on the useless briefing. The plain, single-coloured circle as a planet map always gets a laugh (and I personally like it to have a little laughter). Then I ask: what are you doing while Sarge is away? It's always something naughty. I provoke it if it isn't. I guess I'm showing a difference between the Sarge and everyone else even if the Sarge is a good guy that the Troopers like (and that's about 50/50 -- the others Sergeants get high on their power and are total assholes after a mission if not an encounter, and that's fine too).

Then we have the parade to the drop ship. NFA tests to pass the snooty Lieutenant's sharp eye ("where is your entrenching tool, Trooper?" "Here, Sir!" "Take it out, Trooper." "It's not long enough, Sir!" "What?!" "It's not long enough to reach the planet from here, Sir!" ... there is always something that comes out of the dress inspection.)

On to the drop ship, NFA not to puke and into Encounter 1.

Every time, for me, they hit that encounter screaming as they run out the back of the drop ship guns blazing, grenade throwing and up to no fucking good.

I don't know if that helps, but it's been really interesting for me to look back at what I do with people I don't know.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 23, 2008, 05:59:46 PM
The beauty of it is that how much lies below the surface is completely subjective.. because that content isn't *in* the game, it's in your mind, and those of your fellow players. You're not digging deep into the game, you're digging deep into your collective thoughts, feelings and values.
Right on!

I think many people focus so much on what's in front of their eyes they don't realise the neat things that are happening/they are feeling originate from something behind their eyes (or in their heart, if you prefer). They look only at what's in front of them and think every that matters to the activity, is there - and they will only talk about design/work in that context. Or where they do recognise its something behind their eyes, they want to discard system use entirely in relation to it, as if it could never be affected by hard mechanics and must be free always and ever! With no reflection on whether there's perhaps some value in 'it' being affected by system. So frustrating in terms of talking design. Anyway, right on! :)


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Valamir on December 24, 2008, 09:34:34 AM
I think it would be selling the game short to imply that it can only deliver one sort of message, or one sort of Hatred for Home.

I can imagine a perfectly functional 3:16 campaign where the aliens really WERE bent on the destruction of earth really DID have the capability to carry out their nefarious plans and it really WAS necessary to go out there and do it them before them doing it to us.  No weanie anti-imperial anti-military message...an out and out campaign of John Wayne hero worshipping space cowboys where the injuns fall by the dozen and no one wastes even a second thinking that maybe those savages didn't deserve to die...with no sense of satire or irony at all...because they really really did.

Now examine the Brigadiers orders again in that context...and see what a very different sort of Hatred for Home develops.

There's alot of ways to spin the politics embedded in the game.  The "oh nos, we feel terrible for murdering the innocent babies" way is just the most obvious...and as a result perhaps the least interesting in the long run.

Or how about the one where due to budget cuts the equipment gets shoddier and shoddier.  The ship board conditions get worse and worse and since human life is deemed cheaper than fancy equipment eventually the players are using human horde techniques and dieing in droves because that's more economical than the suits of Mandel-Brite they started with.  It could be a completely legitimate war (in the sense of enough blame for the hostilities on all sides)...how different a flavor of Hatred for Home does that set up lead to.

So yeah.  I really like that Hatred for Home is left entirely open.  The innocence or culpability of the aliens is left pretty much open, and the decision whether the 3:16 are actually defenders of humanity, or just a gang of psychopathic murderers (or both) is left open to interpretation. 

I just wish there was more structure around the internal interactions to help steer attention to that part of play.  As it is the game requires a pretty aggressive GM and players really eager to steer in that direction themselves.  Without players eager to take play in that direction the game quickly becomes a rather repetitive bug hunt.  It sounds to me like Paul's players weren't eager in that direction (perhaps because they were just unaware that direction was theirs to take) and so in the absence of that, some aspects of play became a little flat.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 24, 2008, 01:50:47 PM
Hi Paul,

Quote
But failed to provoke any character play, anything socially interesting, anything but one-dimensional focus on clearing the level.
Did their play provoke any character play in you?

I know their play was largely pure mechanics use. If that's the problem, would you say you can not respond in a character role when faced with mostly pure mechanics use?

You had the scene with the mother ape reaching for the baby, but you'd made that scene to provoke the players. I'm talking about you being provoked by the players. Like what they did shows up in your characters (NPCs) reactions/socialising?


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 25, 2008, 07:00:20 PM
There was a recent thread about how serious 3:16 should be played on S-G. Dude seemed to think that the game was *supposed* to be played as beer and pretzels, and that the deeper themes lurking beneath the surface were incidental and accidental, and really digging into them would be drifting the game. At least one other guy seemed to share that same assumption. That there were deeper issues possible was apparent, much like seeing the tip of an iceberg; you know there's more there, but you may not realize how much.

Being the "dude" in question I felt a need to comment on this. What I actually meant in the thread in question (http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=8334) is that while all of us very rpg- as well as -apparently- socially conscious adult people here easily and correctly read all manners of content into 3:16, what would happen if you gave the game to your average gaming group of 15-year olds? In my mind there's a fair and very real chance that the game might indeed be interpreted as a system-light combat oriented Space-D&D slaughterfest with not much actual roleplaying content. Not everyone is big on subtle irony, and the game even has a playing map and tokens. Hence, "beer & pretzels". If this isn't apparent from the original posting or the follow-ups, then it's my bad. I also think that the questions I intended as theoretical seeds for discussion were interpreted as actual, concrete questions on my part.

As stated on that thread, what many people seem to overlook is that not everyone will read the intended critique of the military-industrial complex into the game. For some people "kill-happy machismo" is actually pretty cool, and makes for a fun game regardless of the ethical questions involved. This is something that we here on the somewhat elitist indie gaming forums tend to forget, and our views might differ radically from that of the roleplaying majority. Wolfen's post for example didn't even list this option as a possible approach. Just take a look at WH40K. The Imperium is pretty much a massively xenofobic military civilization laden with Nazi ideals and insignia, and hey - they're the hugely popular good guys of the setting.

When these two mindsets and interpretations crash into one another, the result is quite conceivably what happened in Paul's original game. I see it as a very real problem if it's not taken into account by the GM.

As for myself, I'm very much running the game with the idea that while it indeeds starts as kill-happy machismo, it eventually becomes grim, ugly, tragic and bitter. My original post on Story-Games dealt with the transition between these two completely different views. While the people I game with will deal with it appropriately and probably enjoy it a lot, for some people a theme-drift such as this might be a bit hard to handle, possibly leading to detachment from their characters.

3:16 is a lot like the military it deftly describes. There are people who think that doing their military service is the coolest thing ever (Bunny from Platoon, anyone?), and they might even become career soldiers. For some it's a necessary chore, and others -like myself- refrain from doing it altogether. None of these options is objectively any better or worse than the others, except of course from the POV of the group in question.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 25, 2008, 08:50:41 PM
Manatic,

I didn't overlook that, nor do I necessarily think that the others did. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I stated that it was a perfectly valid way to play. My comment was based on my perception that you assumed that this was the intended way to play. This perception was based on your questions about whether or not you'd still be playing 3:16 properly if you start going into those deeper themes. If it seemed that I was downing you, believe me, I'm wasn't.

Also, desire for deeper game play isn't limited to us high-falutin' indies. After playing the first session or two of 3:16 with the players I've got now, whose collective experience barely extends beyond D&D, I was approached with the critique that 3:16 wasn't really much of a thinking game. That was around the time I started to turn up the heat. (note that this isn't a criticism of D&D players, just an observation that they're very much non-indie).

The point I'm trying to make is that 3:16 can accommodate various values and assumptions. That includes the assumption that kill-happy machismo is good fun. You can be the sort who watches war movies, and thinks military glorification is awesome. (though why do all these movies have to glorify the officers? How often do you see the hero of the movies being an NCO? Elitists!) You can be, like me, someone who pushes through the cynicism and does his best to keep some level of idealism and belief in what he's doing. You can be someone who thinks our war in Iraq is Imperialism at its worse. I think that 3:16, even with the Orders for each rank, equally adept at handling any of them.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 26, 2008, 02:19:58 AM
I think more to the point, you can show platoon or iron cross to some people and they will only see the 'rambo' in it.

Rather than theoretical discussion for its own sake and instead looking at practical problems, if the authors goal was to reach these particular people who are only seeing rambo (not the first rambo, either), and they are not being reached, then yeah, the design has problems.

Who did the author want to reach with the work? If it doesn't reach some excitable 14 year old rambo needer, that doesn't matter at all if it wasn't the authors goal to reach him. And I do mean what the authors original goals were - not any sort of sneak out of it "Oh, if you don't get it, then it wasn't intended for you" bullcrap (god, I want to get into how that's a total yes man cop out). It's like reviewing a movie - who was it that the movie was intended to reach?


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 26, 2008, 06:36:21 AM
Wolfen,

we are apparently both talking about the same thing, albeit with small inital misinterpretations. Oh well, such things happen on the internets. Some of our points simply weren't conveyed like we intended. No harm done!

You are right that the need for deeper gameplay isn't restricted to indie gamers. Still, it is very common to find a somewhat condescending "you're doing it wrong"-attitude both here and at Story Games, and that's really sad (however you wish to interpret that last word). Oh and do note that this is not aimed at anyone in particular, as it is only an observation from someone fairly new to indie gaming forums. I must say though, that the terms "easy fun" and "deep gameplay" are not mutually exclusive.

And now, to keep this thread on track: If anything, this thread illustrates that 3:16 as a game very much dependant on genre expectations. For some, Platoon is the epitome of a war movie. For some, it's Guns of Navarone. I remember watching Platoon as a little kid, and it was soooo boring. And ugly and dirty and sad, so not at all like war should be. Where were the heroics, who were the bad guys? This means that the GM has to be very sensitive and sometimes very upfront about the style of game he wants to run. 3:16 can very easily provide two very differing, almost irreconcilable views which can lead to difficult gaming. This, and especially the huge gray area between these two extremes is what makes 3:16 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_3_16) so intriguing. You can start out with the PCs as heroes, then make them murderers and then introduce an actual alien threat to Earth, making the PCs something resembling heroes again, only for them to have a Vietnam vet's reception back home. Doesn't get much better than that.

As to who the author wanted to reach, have a look at the 3:16 website (http://gregorhutton.com/boxninja/threesixteen/index.html), right column. What kind of player appears to be the target crowd, the deep immersionist gamer or the casual one? "War has never been simpler than in this little RPG with big tactical elements." Indeed. I'd rather say that war has never had such potential to be enjoyed by all gamers.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 27, 2008, 12:15:10 PM
Yes, but I really am getting at the authors intended audience, rather than what you'd say. Gregor will probably swing by at some point.

I don't agree about the GM having to be sensitive to what you described. There's no reason I can see that says such responsiblity aught to be in his lap. However, it does make me think that if a game is for a certain audience but doesn't say so in it's text, the host of the game may very well invite people from outside that intended audience. That would indeed be a problem in shared authorship.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 27, 2008, 12:51:15 PM
 think quality play of this game doesn't require any upfront disclosure. I think if you, as the GM, play your NPCs consistently, and otherwise have no agenda, the play will emerge from the interactions of of the characters. Play your missions with a variety. Ravening monsters, sympathetic three-eyed apes, "corrupt" troopers who have decided to protect the aliens.. Do it all, and pass no judgment on the players, one way or the other. If they slaughter the baby apes and pretend to go along with the corrupt troopers just to betray them when they get in to see their leader.

Play will emerge from them. Take their lead. If they just shoot through your sympathetic planets without batting an eyelash, then maybe they want that beer and pretzels game. If they shoot through them, but there're some questionable looks, give 'em more. If one player just pushes ruthlessly through (especially the sergeant...) and everyone else questions, start giving questionable orders from above. See how far the sergeant will go, and how much the squad will take.

Now, the no-agenda GM style can be difficult if you want a certain type of play, and you think the players will go in a different direction. I've noticed this with Dogs in the Vineyard. I didn't necessarily have a particular judgment, but I was invested in there actually being some disagreement about a particular aspect of the town I set up, but instead, the PCs unanimously denounced it and moved on. In this case, you've got to learn to just let it go, or do it your way, and disclose your agenda up front. I think this tends to contribute to contrived play, but that can be fun, too.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 27, 2008, 03:06:08 PM
The description above is precisely what I meant by saying that the GM has to be sensitive to the players' playing style. This of course holds true for any RPG, but especially for games such as 3:16 where the starting premise (troopers killing aliens) conjures up very different mental images for different people. I think a GM always has the responsibility to be as sensitive as possible to his players' wants and needs, and vice versa.

A GM learns to roll with the players the more he runs scenarios, but it isn't always fun for the GM even if it is so for the players. If you want to run Platoon and your group is playing Starship Troopers, you'll probably be more than a bit frustrated even if you roll with it. Now, to be upfront at this point most likely leads to an awkward, contrived game and that's really not what we want! So if the GM wants to be upfront, he should do that before the game. It's not really much trouble to ask your players before you start designing the scenarios whether they want to play a war-rpg in the vein of Platoon or in the vein of SST. Or rather, you can just drop this on your group or pool of players (I'm lucky that way since I have an abundance of players to choose from, 10+), and tell them what kind of game you intend to run and what themes the game will focus on etc. and play with the people interested. Of course, not nearly everyone has this option available, and that means we go back to the sensitivity discussed earlier. I can never see any harm done by discussing a game with your players before starting it. The intention is for all the people concerned to have as much fun as possible.





Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 30, 2008, 02:02:04 PM
I don't think Lance is describing that particular 'sensitivity' procedure. As I understand him, with the procedure he describes he goes in with no preconceived notion (running platoon is preconceived)/no agenda. The prep he does is inspired by the game, which is to say, the game triggers something inside his thoughts, feelings and values, as he wrote about before. And the prep he makes is stuff that may trigger something inside the thoughts, feelings and values of the other players (emphasis on the 'may' - see below). So it's system inspires GM, GM inspires player (as opposed to what might be described as traditional RPG's, where it's just GM inspires players).

Also in that procedure, if the players don't react to the sympathetic planets, then just follow the rules procedure - roll to hit, whatever, with just a light beer and pretzels splash of colour, till you get to the end. It's okay if the session goes on and ends that way. It's much nicer if there's an inspired resonance with the players, of course. But there is no "I've spent $150 on books and many, many hours of prep on personally heartfelt material! If this thing doesn't work all that's gone to hell so it HAS to work and they WILL be inspired, goddammit!" stress, which most traditional RPG's seem to involve. Here, not getting through to the players isn't the end of the world - just follow the rules to the end, wrap up and watch a movie or something together. I think that's the procedure Lance describes - or atleast I describe one which is very similar.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 30, 2008, 03:08:35 PM
To clarify things up:

In my last post I talked about two different things. One is sensitivity, the other is being upfront. I only referred to the sensitivity in the first paragraph, and the second paragraph was about upfront disclosure of the game's preferred themes.

Once again, what I mean by being sensitive to players' signals is exactly what you describe. You create a scenario, pretty much just a sketch of the encounters etc. and toss it to the players. You may have some preconceived ideas or themes, but if the players don't seem to want to go that way, it's fine and you're not going to force it on them. It's sensitivity to signals from the players. If they seem to be having a good time just blasting away aliens, then by all means do that and have a beer afterwards. This, I gather, is more or less what you and Lance were both talking about?

Now, being upfront is a different story altogether. You have a theme (such as Platoon) and you tell the players what the themes and mood of the campaign are going to be. In this mode you can just tell the players that if they're looking for a cheery action movie -style shoot'em up, they should look somewhere else. So this one is pretty much a "now, if you want to do a game like this I can put a lot of time and effort into the prepping, but I sure as hell am not going to do it if you guys want to play a light b&p style game." This is pretty much what our group does. We've been playing together for a long long time, so we can be very open about what we want and don't want to play/run. It means that we don't have to rely so much on the GM sensitivity described above, since such a need rarely arises. The players know what they sign up for, and act accordingly.




Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 30, 2008, 03:16:48 PM
That is almost exactly what I was getting at, Callan.

A few niggling details differ.

First, my 3:16 play has involved me telling the players that I can do character creation, scenario creation and play out a full mission in 2-3 hours.

Then I sit down and prove it to them. I roll the planet up right there on the table in front of them, usually scratching the notes on a slip of paper, ostentatiously showing them that the game can be played no-prep.

This has its weaknesses, obviously. The mission hasn't got any depth, nor do the NPCs.. I usually fall back on John Harper's jaded, lazily-insulting LT, crazy pilot and lackadaisical mission brief.

The first of the strengths is that very lack of investment. If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play. If the session rocks on toast (which is pretty typical, even with the no-prep approach) then it rocks. If it's okay but nothing special, I've still managed, at the least, to prove that it could be done. The second strength leads from the first; I'm not invested, I have no agenda other than to help the players kill some bugs. Maybe those bugs will be corrupt troopers. Maybe they'll be sympathetic in some way. Usually, I play them as pretty faceless. Get 'em into the idea of killing bugs as light-hearted fun. Even if I want to explore the deeper themes, it's good to start light.

I can enjoy both types of play. Beer-and-pretzels bug-splatting, or deep exploration of the themes of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity and Personal courage in a fictional, somewhat over the top setting. Both of the groups I've run it for (disclosure: Both were composed entirely of active duty soldiers, either bound for Iraq or recently returned, with the sole exception of my wife, who played in the first group) were enjoying the beer and pretzels, but were open for other stuff. No discussion, no agenda. Just playing it real, and letting it happen.

It really comes down to system inspires GM, system inspires players. It may inspire a different thing in your players than in you. In that case, decide if you can have fun with that thing, and if not.. Well, there's always a movie.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 31, 2008, 08:38:36 AM
Then I sit down and prove it to them. I roll the planet up right there on the table in front of them, usually scratching the notes on a slip of paper, ostentatiously showing them that the game can be played no-prep.[...]This has its weaknesses, obviously. The mission hasn't got any depth, nor do the NPCs.[...]The first of the strengths is that very lack of investment. If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play.[...]If it's okay but nothing special, I've still managed, at the least, to prove that it could be done.

Pardon me for asking, but why not play a board game then? What inherent benefit or value is there in showing and proving that the game can be played no-prep? The sentence "If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play" simply makes no sense to me, especially listing it as a particular strength. For the people I game with (and including myself) a "sucky session" is certainly not in any way a presumably valid option when setting out to play. If hours of preparation amount to lousy play, it calls for serious discussion between the whole group.

Imagine a surgeon winging an operation. If the patient dies, then at least the surgeon didn't spend a lot of time poring over the patient's medical files. And if the patient happens to live through the operation, at least it was proven that a surgeon really can wing an operation. I just fail to see whose needs are served, apart from the surgeon.

Games shouldn't be solely about player enjoyment or GM enjoyment, but a shared enjoyed experience with a common investment.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on December 31, 2008, 11:28:57 AM
You're over-analyzing here.
Obviously a lousy session isn't a goal. But shit happens. From the original post of this thread, Paul did a fair amount of prep, and the play came out fairly lackluster, at least compared to his expectations. Lousy sessions happen. People have off-nights, sometimes the group just doesn't click with the game. If I'd spent hours, or days, preparing a scenario only to have it end up sucking, that's worse than sitting down with a no-prep game and having it suck. If you've never had this happen, then you've led a charmed gaming life that doesn't reflect on the rest of us.

As for the inherent merits of proving no-prep play is doable? Have you ever had a time where something happened, and your normal game fell through, but you really wanted to do some roleplaying? Or have you ever been hanging out with no particular plans to roleplay, but thought it would be a nice to be able to do some? In a game that requires even an hour of prep to start a game from scratch, this may mean it'll never happen. With 3:16, Someone can suggest we do some gaming, and within 2-3 hours, we can be done with a full session, from scratch.

And honestly, the surgery comparison? That's pretty ridiculous. There are no hobby surgeons. Surgery isn't something done to kill a few hours having some fun.

Anyhow, while our discussions here may have merit, it's becoming apparent that the original poster hasn't got much else to say. I suggest we take our future discussion elsewhere, if you've any interest in continuing on this line.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Callan S. on December 31, 2008, 03:57:52 PM
I think the surgery comparison isn't ridiculous, rather it shows a contrast of priority. I can imagine what manatic means, I think. I'd phrase it that the game session is this important thing were making together and if it flops, then our important thing has flopped! How could saving on prep matter? It either risks a flop, or at best it does nothing to prevent it! What use is that at all if at best it does nothing about what is important!

It's curious being able to walk the line, if I'm at all accurate about the above. I don't share that priority, yet I can feel it and its needs.

My own priority I think is similar or the same as Lance's. The session isn't an important thing. Lance talked about what the people at the table think and feel, and that's the important thing. NO, not what they think and feel about the game! That's what alot of 'session is important!' people will think I mean at this moment. No, the important thing is outside the game entirely - what do they think and feel about life in general, but spoken through the games metaphor? That's the important thing - the game itself is a relatively disposable thing in regards to that. A bit like booster rockets that fall away once they have done their job in launching the main capsule. The booster rocket is nice when it's firing, but it is not an important thing. And if it doesn't fire at all, well it would have been nice if it did, but oh well and atleast we didn't prep for dozens of hours beforehand!

I think alot of roleplayers will still think I'm talking about 'the session is important' because that IS roleplay, for them. Because without that, to them it isn't roleplay and it comes down to "Why don't you play a board game?". Which is an interesting question if you look carefully. Because it makes you assume when they ask it, they aren't playing a board game. Without having provided any evidence to prove that and instead only triggering the sympathetic assumption/trust that they aren't playing a boardgame. That's the very edge of 'the complete package' (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019), I'd say.

Also, and Lance might not agree he was showing this, I think his demonstration shows he as GM doesn't own the game by having done lots of prep beforehand. He's in the same position as other players - he rocks up and starts using the system. Which shows no one really owns the game - its virgin territory (or perhaps 'no mans land' might be more apt in 3:16's case). That's probably how it was for most of us on our very first few sessions of roleplaying. That's another benefit of his demonstration, I think, anyway.

Gah, thought I'd be shorter than this. Lance is right about the thread and it should split. But I couldn't think of an actual play account that seemed to fit, without thinking "Am I just bringing that up as an excuse to start a thread, rather than because it fits the issue?".


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on December 31, 2008, 09:56:33 PM
(I think this thread should be moved somewhere else, too. It's not really about the original thread anymore, and the posts are getting long. Judging by your post counts you know the ins and outs of this site, so you probably know where to move it. It's an interesting discussion in itself and one that I feel might be fun to continue.)

Callan, you got the surgery comparison right. And from what your and Lance's posts are saying, priorisation and differing gaming cultures are what we are talking about.

Our group is quite relaxed when it comes to roleplaying, but it's a curious mix. The whole social situation is very closely intertwined with the game itself. While the social event isn't just about the session but also very much about socializing with friends, it still means that the session should be as good as possible. You could easily compare it to having a lot of friends over for a few beers, some food and a film. The point isn't the movie, the food or the beer, but instead seeing your friends. Still, if the movie sucks, the food is awful and the beer warm and watery it will detract a lot from the evening's fun factor.

So from this point of view I talked about board games (good point on the question's wording btw), since that is what we would do if we really wanted to do some gaming and our regular game fell through. If we don't have anything prepped,  we'll just settle for playing something that's been prepped already, such as a board game. It fulfils the social need for gaming without risking the improvised rpg session sucking and bringing the night to a "bleh" conclusion.

Now seen against this I think you can understand why I consider the quick game that Lance described as something incomprehensible. I guess our group works with the idea "if you're going to do something, do it right." We have had a lot of non-prep and impromptu games years ago and  have gradually come to the conclusion that since we don't have limitless time to spend on rpg/gaming sessions, we'd rather spend the time we have on quality. Our group somewhat values the idea of game owning, but in a positive way. Which is basically saying, that if the GM makes the effort to inspire the players, the players respond in kind. The idea of owning games is one I'd very much like to discuss, since it's one of our group's main points of discussion currently.

As to what Lance said in his post...believe me, having GM'd for 11-12 years I've had quite a few of my games fall flat on their well-prepared faces, so so much for my charmed life. While as a kid that was downright awful, these days it has a lot more meaning. So I have to disagree: I think that if a well-prepared game with a solid and 'reliable' gaming group ends up sucking, it provides a very good start for discussing the reasons why such a surprising thing happened, and as such might end up contributing a lot to the whole group - as failures often do if they're broken down and analyzed.

If a non-prep game ends up sucking, IMO it will just disappoint everyone and possibly make them question why it was played in the first place, instead of board gaming or catching a film. And since it was no-prep, there always was a fairly good chance of it sucking, so it's really not such a surprise as to merit a lot of discussion.

- Mikko (since we're on a first name basis, it felt awkward staying behind a nick)


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 01, 2009, 01:40:12 AM
I think we've got a lot to say on this topic of prep-less play. If you guys are willing, I'll start another AP thread this evening (Baghdad local time; I work the night shift) where I will attempt to unpack where I'm trying to go, and we can work out what's important here. I'll dab into my recent 3:16 play, as well as my attempts at designing prepless or low-prep games, and how those games played out.

Remember, the idea of the AP forum isn't to avoid theory. It's to ground theory in actual play.


Title: Re: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend
Post by: manatic on January 01, 2009, 05:22:24 AM
Sounds excellent, thanks!