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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Double_J on January 01, 2012, 04:15:58 PM



Title: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 01, 2012, 04:15:58 PM
Hey all,
First-time poster, short-time lurker (though I have put myself through quite a crash course since I first stumbled upon this site a couple of months ago).
I've read pretty much all of the "neophyte threads (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=28182.0)", got lost in some link chasing, and scanned the most recent topics; so, hopefully, I'm fairly up to snuff on what this place is about.  (the academic approach/attitude is just what I've been looking for -- I was starting to think that no such place existed)

Okay, on to the post:
So as to avoid biasing the situation as best as possible, I'll just get straight to the problematic instances, and then discuss/explore from there.  This pretty much all involves one of my players, who we can just call "Fred" at this point (though, while I'm at it, I'll address the other players as well).
For structural purposes, I'll break the rest of this down in to 3 sections:
1) Instances of Actual Play that have been problematic (at least, those that stand out to me the most)
2) My background and personal play preferences
3) My assessment of things

Problematic Actual Play (note: most of this play has happened within D&D 3.x with me as DM; but his tendencies and behaviors have presented in other games and other GMs as well .... mostly White Wolf)
*warning: I've long since lost the ability to properly define the line between "play issues" and "character/personality flaw" in this matter; so bear with me*

Fred first showed up to the group demonstrating himself to be very ... um ... "risk adverse".  For example, he refuses to accept "scout" (or appropriate analog) as a valid party role/function/etc., because "that splits the party; and splitting the party is always bad, because bad things always happen when you split the party".  For that matter, I am surprised that he actually consents to someone doing so much as going to the bathroom without insisting on it involving at least a 2-man battle-buddy team (I'm not exaggerating).

Fred also refuses to "just do it" -- ever (well, at least not without sulking).  Every course of action must be meticulously planned, to the point of trying to establish a trembling hand perfect equilibrium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trembling_hand_perfect_equilibrium) -- an equilibrium that must exist at all times (obviously with continuous refinement).  And nobody is allowed to muck up his plans.  When confronted on this matter, he responds with a tightly-constructed defense as to why it's the only reasonable approach/solution.  (oh, btw -- I've even started to delve in to formal Game Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory) in an effort to try to find solutions ... but there's a lot out there, and I've only got so much time and energy).  So, a given instance of play might look like this:
- identify an objective
- spend hours planning out how that objective should be achieved
- hit the "I win button" and watch all that planning play out just as planned.
The first time I really noticed this was in a particular scene where they had decided that they needed to do a snatch-and-grab of a V.I.P. off of his boat and interrogate him.  I thought "cool, we've got an opportunity for a really neat swashbuckling scene".  I wanted to go out for a smoke, so I let them to themselves to figure out how they wanted to do it (and I thought that it would be an added bonus if I wasn't in on their planning -- I mean, the guys on the boat wouldn't be privy to the planning; so I thought that the scene would play out more naturally).  It turned out that they had orchestrated quite the plan -- it really was a simple matter of bamphing on to the boat, one guy snatched the mark while the rest of the party provided some distraction, and then bamphed back to an empty warehouse.  It was all done within about 5 minutes of play time (about 3-4 rounds of in-game time).  What followed was:
- Me: (in a befuddled tone) "Wow, that was rather ..... anti-climatic."
- Fred: (donning a huge self-satisfied grin) "Exactly.  Just as planned."
I was really disappointed.  I had went in to this scene hoping for a couple of hours locked in a tense, exciting, and cinematic battle, full of all kinds of crazy theatrics (heck, if they'd have made enough noise, they might even have attracted the notice of the surrounding ships, and then we'd be in this all night).  When I expressed this, the response I got was along the lines of "what?  you didn't actually expect us to put ourselves in danger, did you?"  As it was, the scene was nothing more than just a very short and simple step on their way to extract their plot points from the NPC (yes, it really is that reductionist).
It was at this point that I realized that I wasn't going to be able to just "wing it" in order to keep things exciting (which is what I prefer to do) -- no, I was going to have to do a lot of pre-planning (I'll talk more about this later).

Speaking of reductionism .... Fred has introduced new words/phrases in to our group's vernacular.  Words/phrases like "hit the convert-to-cash button" and "extract plot points".  While they were humorous at first (in an Austin Powers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weD0Jt8A5Zg) sort of way), this sort of reductionism is really starting to rub me the wrong way.  To be fair, though, I must admit to my own form of this; e.g., I refuse to accept sundering as a valid combat action for any character I play, simply because such a tactic necessarily destroys potential treasure.  But hey, nobody's perfect.

Fred is also very detail oriented.  I think that this is heavily tied-in to behaviors/play style.  Indecently, he also prides himself on being the "smartest guy in the room", and very much enjoys being the alpha.

Fred also insists on maintaining strict control over party resources.  Every item and every penny must be strictly accounted for at all times; to the point of even trying to dictate how that money/treasure get spent for other people in the party.  There have been several times when I'm just like "all the relevant stuff is already on your character sheet, and we aren't at any market or anything right now, so let's just go do something".  I've even made mention that it feels like we're playing "Dungeons & Logistics", and that we need to just move on and just play; but, as with most instances when somebody expresses the desire to just move on, he responds with something along the lines of "this has to be taken care of right now" and then pretty much dominates the situation until he feels matters are resolved to his satisfaction.  I've even tried the tactic of just ignoring him and moving on with everyone else.  Do I need to describe how this ends up?

Control .... it's Fred's way, or it's wrong.  To confound matters, descent is usually met with what I like to call his "logic machine-gun" or "machine-gun logic" (i.e., a series of logical steps that are fired at you so quick that you don't have time to react -- and the fact that I actually know and understand the psychology behind why this tactic works just pisses me off even more ..... I'm sure that this is actually a formally-defined debate tactic; but heck if I know what it's called).  I will give him this: when presented with an idea that is empirically better than his, he will give credit where credit is due ..... but then it's right back to status quo (procedurally speaking).

Speaking of party resources .... he really likes to argue about the appropriate sale value of stuff.  If a particular piece of equipment/treasure/etc. doesn't appear to have an immediate use, he immediately looks for the convert-to-cash value.  Which is, in and of itself, not really a big deal.  However, if he doesn't like the amount I give him, he has to argue about it (beginning with trying to discredit the rules, and then detailing what the rules should be).  It has twice gotten to the point of him saying "well, if the pay-out amount is going to be so low, then it only makes sense that I just set up shop and we'll all turn this game in to 'Shopkeeper: the RPG'."  This, irrespective of how much relative loot they actually have on hand.

(sorry for the lack of details on those first few -- this is just his default disposition.  trying to explain specific examples would be like trying to describe a specific breath that he takes)

While in the midst of exploring a particular "dungeon" (it was actually a dense jungle at this point; but whatever), I made mention that it had started raining, and described matters such that it became readily apparent to everyone that there was a serious danger of getting caught in a flash flood.  Upon this realization, Fred immediately came out of character and started to try to give me lessons on why such a thing wouldn't/shouldn't be happening.  He took my previous descriptions of the landscape and delved in to the geological issues involved in why a flash flood would make absolutely no sense.  In his geological/meteorological dissertation, he did allow for one possibility for how this would happen; but emphatically detailed all the omissions in my descriptions that would have allowed for this one possibility, and that if the flash flood was allowed to happen, his immersion would be completely shattered, and his trust diminished (and thus leading to further exhibition of the aforementioned behaviors).  At that point, I tried to explain the purpose for the event was to try to simply invoke some depth to the scenario, and to create a more interesting environment.  At which point he further detailed my failings in my descriptions.  Yet again, I caved -- in an effort to just move on and end the argument, I just threw up my hands and conceded.

Anytime that things happen that disrupt his plans, he comes unglued.
In one instance, they were rooting out a warehouse for a macguffin clue, and the night "security" was actually an equivalent-level wizard (as opposed to some schmoe, which is what they were counting on).  When they busted in to the room, they got hit with a volley that hit Fred's character for major damage (almost killing him).  Despite being able to wrap the encounter up in 2-3 rounds (and with no casualties, I might add), he sat there and berated me for being a munchkin.  Really?!  The only way I could respond to that was to point out the overall relative ease in resolving the encounter and that he needed to get over it and move on.  His response was to double-down on the uber-paranoia, slowing each and every aspect of the game to a snail's pace.
In another instance, I thought that the game was literally gonna fall apart.  They were chasing down an angle on trying to unravel the evil shadow organization (despite me coming out and telling them that it was a fool's errand -- they knew that the shadow org. was divided in to autonomous cells, explicitly and specifically designed for the purpose of defending against the very tactic that they were employing).  Well, they had thought that they had found the "key" to unraveling it all ..... and then they lost it.  I have never in my life seen such a temper-tantrum from an adult as I did from Fred at that moment.  Because of the particular group dynamic at that time, I knew that I had to patch something quick, else the entire game would have fallen apart.

Back to the treasure issue (and it should be noted that this happened in the last session that I've played -- 6 months ago):  We had done a really good job at setting up for a major confrontation/meeting with the leaders of a distant country, who were interested 3rd party to the main story.  But, before that meeting was to happen, Fred insisted that we had time to upgrade everybody's gear, which just had to be done so that they were all maximized in their plot advancement capabilities.  They first went to their go-to contacts (an isolated elven community); but there was no deal to be made -- all resources were in short supply, what with everybody gearing up for an inevitable large scale war (I made this decision not only because it made sense, but also because I was just wanting to get on with things).  Surprisingly, Fred accepted this on its face .... and his immediate solution was to scour the planet for a scroll of Plane Shift (with a return trip) so that they could bamph to a major planar metropolis (specifically, to The Great Marketplace in the planar Outlands) and thus be guaranteed a venue for gear upgrades.  My first response was "and just how does your character know about this place"; to which he responded "well, let's see -- my planar knowledge is at a +20-something ..... do you really want me to roll it?".  I could see where this was going, so I just threw up my hands again, and was like "okay, whatever -- if for no other reason than to shut you up".  And then there was the price negotiations.  They had a couple of spell books (amongst other things) that they wanted to unload; for which I offered them the rules-prescribed amount.  Fred then emphatically balked at that sum, and proceeded to engage in to a diatribe of rules-lawyering (ignoring the specific context of the rules in question); and pushed his point until I yelled "fine, I don't care.  As a matter of fact, since you're gonna argue until you get your way anyway, just write down a number -- any number you want, and that's the price you get for the spell books.  And while you're at it, since no one in their right mind would want to get between you and saving the entire world from utter destruction - because otherwise they'd be part of the conspiracy - just go ahead and equip yourselves with whatever crazy equipment that you want -- I really don't care what you do, because none of this particular charade matters".  And then I stormed out to get a nicotine refill.
It should be noted that a few sessions before this, he'd gotten bogged-down in the gear issue, and I was like "This is not the story of your gear -- this is the story of your quest to save the world.  If I decided that you are left with nothing but a wooden stick and brass chime, then that would be fine, because I would factor that in when designing your encounters.  You don't need anything". 

Fred really took his character's paranoia over the top.  If I here "but that's what my character would do" one more time as an excuse of disruptive play, I'm gonna puke.  'Cause it's like "hey guy -- you are the one who decided this character's personality and motivations, and you are the one who decided to play him; how dare you hide behind your character.  Stop being a coward -- man-up and admit that you are responsible for your character's actions".

After I calmed down (I still don't know what they did, equipment-wise), we got back to the story.  They had one last stop before the big meeting -- they were tracking down a plot device that led them to a warehouse, containing a very large box that literally had their names on it.  Now, up to this point, I had, several times, expressed my discontent with the whole cloak-and-dagger schtick -- it had long since gotten very stale for me.  At one point, I even said "seriously, you're 15th level now -- this whole cloak-and-dagger schtick has long ago stopped being interesting or meaningful. .... does my fun and your fun have to be so mutually exclusive?" (mind you, they'd been doing this since shortly after discovering the existence of the pervasive shadow organization ... at like level 5.  At one point I just straight used DM Fiat to have them captured, tortured, and told via DM-mouthpiece to drop the cloak-and-dagger schtick ... which only severed to entrench Fred even more).  So anyway, in their attempt to avoid detection by the shadow organization, they had spent an inordinate amount of time, energy, and treasure on developing several cover-identities, and had enlisted many NPCs to also (unwittingly) pose as various versions of those cover-identities (the idea being that if they ever got figured out, then at least it would be all but impossible it figure out who was who). 
So, back to the box.  When they opened the box, inside was a pile of bodies, and a few sheets of paper (i.e., a "packing list"), listing the names of everybody in the box, as well as the names and relations of their surviving family members.  In-game, the idea was to let them know that they had been fingered, and that the cloak-and-dagger charade was no longer working, and they were getting innocent people killed and orphaning children.  Out-of-game, it was to push them out into the open so that we could actually start moving forward and stop running in circles. 
Fred's response:  "I guess that means that we didn't cast our net wide enough -- that just means that we gotta cast it bigger."
We haven't played since.

Our White Wolf Storyteller, Jack, seems to handle him quite effectively (sort of).  I think this is a function of 3 things: 1) Jack enjoys telling heavily-narrated cloak-and-dagger , 2) Jack cares much less about fidelity to the ruleset than I do, and  3) Jack makes liberal use of Storyteller Fiat (with little-to-no room for argument) -- though, that typically leaves Fred quite sulky; and with Fred being such the large personality within the group that he is ..... well, I think you get the picture.


So, here's why this problem is weighing on me so:  ever since Fred joined the group over 2 years ago, I've noticed that our games have become more and more dysfunctional -- to the point that I've now completely dropped out of play altogether (for about the last 6 months).  The joy of the hobby has been sucked out of me, and is writhing on the floor.  The real crux of the issue is that (believe it or not) Fred and I have become such good friends outside of gaming; and, while I've had boat-loads of players move in and out of my games over the years (for various reasons), I simply don't feel good about saying "sorry dude, I can't game with you anymore" -- mainly since he hasn't really actively tried to be a dick (though, I have resolved myself to the reality that this may have to be the final resolution; if that is indeed the case -- I'm hoping that you guys can help me find other solutions).
Of course, now that I think on this a little more, I do believe that, in the time that we've stopped gaming together, our normal discussions have started to become more and more adversarial in nature -- I mention this only because it suddenly seemed to be relevant (and only just occurred to me).


Wow, this has gotten really long winded -- sorry about that.  I promise to tighten it up from here on out.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 01, 2012, 04:18:39 PM
About Me
While I've dipped my toes in several different game systems over the years, I always find myself going back to D&D (right now, it happens to be my own adaptation of the 3.5 ruleset).  There's just something about the High-/Epic-Fantasy genre mixed with the traditional RPG model that really resonates with me.

As a player, I'd describe myself as such:  within the realm of character creation, I imagine a concept (narritively), and then take a hardcore Gamist mode in figuring out what that character sheet should look like (though, it does have to make sense thematically and be internally consistent, so as to not offend my basic sensibilities).  However, once the character hits the table, I'm Simulationist to the core, with the my character's place in the emergent Story providing for my motivation (both as a player and as a character).  I generally prefer Trailblazing on the part of the GM, and often take Actor Stance (though I gladly take Pawn Stance when I lack strong internal direction or if it's somebody else's turn to shine).

As a GM, I generally start a campaign (always conceived in grand scale, btw) by establishing theme and general direction I'd like to see the game go; and then prefer to wing it from there.  I also like to let everyone know my anticipation of the size and scale of the campaign, so that the players can develop appropriate perspective and expectations.  Once I establish the campaign-defining problem, and give them the initial nudge, I generally leave the issue of how to solve said problem up to them.  I come to the table with a general idea of who the major NPCs are, their motivations, and the (as I see them) natural course of events if the PCs do absolutely nothing.  After that, it's just a matter of reacting to their actions in a way that seems plausible.  I'm sure that this will probably be described as Trailblazing; but when everything is firing on all cylinders -- when everybody is just "clicking" -- it really feels like Bass Playing.  At it's worst, it feels like we're just grudgingly settling for Participationism.

Every new Player that looks to join my group gets the same spiel.  I first explain everything that I just said in the previous paragraph.  I let them know that I prefer "sandbox" play; however, that a sandbox is just that -- do whatever you want with the sand that I put in the box, but keep the sand in the box.  If I don't care anything about Jeb the dirt farmer or Randomville, then neither one is going to get any screen time (unless, of course, you give me a reason to need to care about them) -- HINT: the only things in which I have a vested interest (and as such, the only things I care about keeping in tact) are the integrity of established fiction (regardless of the who/when) and the campaign-defining problem.  I'll let you know if you start coming out of the box.  However, that coin has another side to it -- the box's size and shape are not necessarily fixed for the entirety of the game; and if that change doesn't necessarily make itself readily apparent in the emergent story, then I'll be sure to drop you a few hints (and if you don't get the hints, I'll just tell you out-right).  And the only real thing determining the size/shape of the box is "am I having fun?".  If that answer is "no" (or is clear that I could be having more fun), then the box is gonna change.
Additionally, every player is told, in no uncertain terms, that I don't play "players vs. GM" -- that dynamic just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.  I'm on the side of the PCs!  What -- do you actually think that I want the evil overlord to destroy this world I created?  Hell no -- let's go get 'em!  I need for the players to be able to trust me -- both to discourage an adversarial player-GM relationship (after all -- you're my friends), and to encourage the kind of risk-taking that is required for the cinematic, larger-than-life theatrics that make this game worth playing (otherwise, we can just settle for board games, or I can play a computer game or something).

Additionally, I explicated a couple of campaign-specific notes to the players this time around:  I was still a little spent from the last game I GMed, so I wanted to run just a very simple game that I could put on auto-pilot.  Any illusion of complexity and depth was just window dressing, and not to be examined too closely.  And when the players periodically made mention of the depth and complexity of the story, I was able to honestly able to look at them and say that it was purely a function of what was demanded of my by Fred, as he seemed to go out of his way to extract as much as he possibly could.  When I would insist that I really needed things to be dialed back, all I got in response was "no, no -- you're doing just fine".  AAARRRRGH!!!




Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 01, 2012, 04:20:30 PM
My Assessment:
When I first starting visiting this site and reading up on GNS, I thought that maybe this whole thing was just a CA-conflict.  I figured-out that where I'm more of a Nar-Sim guy, Fred is more of a Gam-Nar guy.  In one of our away-from-game discussions, he commented that he thought the clash came form him being of a "tight control on a loose plot" preference, and me being a "loose control on a tight plot" preference.  On it's face, it kinda made sense at the time, and seems to mesh with my initial GNS assessment.  But I'm not sure that's the whole of it.  He has also made mention several times, when commenting on both my games and Jack's, that he believes that a PC should have more input in shaping the world (and is use to having it) than what the traditional power structure allowed for.  And that makes sense; but, again, I still don't think that's the whole of it.

Like myself, Fred has spent 90+% of his gaming experience in the GM chair.  Where he and I differ, though, is in our primary experience with game groups.  All of my play groups have consisted of what I have been able to put together from a pool of experienced players, with the occasional newb here and there.  With Fred, on the other hand, it's a different story.  He's very accustomed to GMing for only newbs and those who have only had him as a GM.  The biggest part of his groups have consisted of his wife, her best friend, and who ever else happened to be there.  I see him as a control freak, and is very much use to being in control and having his ego stroked; and doesn't deal well when that is challenged.

When I watch Fred in action as a player, it feels like he sees himself as the GM, and that the actual GM is merely the book in which the adventure module and setting info is written (once I expressed this to one of my other players, we both decided that this was a perfect description).
I've even played in a couple of sessions with Fred as the GM.  In my experience, his games are unabashedly Forced Participationism, straight-up; and is quite open about the fact that he plays fast-and-loose with whatever ruleset he might happen to be using.  However, he has awesome scene framing, solid pacing, cool story, and the ability to immediately react to just about anything (thanks to his enormous knowledge base and his lightning-quick imagination and thought processes) -- as a result, he runs a pretty fun game (it would probably be even more fun if I were able to allow myself to fall in to Illusionism).  He looks perfectly at ease when he's in the GM chair -- because he knows that he is in full control.

Fred doesn't seem to like tension.  All of his incessant planning seems to be aimed at trying to remove all trace of Fortune from the game.  For him, it's all Drama and Karma; and he only engages when both of those are in his favor.

I also feel like there is a major trust issue involved.  I noticed this right away in his very first session with the group -- very cautious and always expecting a giant GM cod-piece to come flying straight up his posterior  The majority of is experience as a player has been with Gygaxian, character-killing adventure modules.  When I mentioned that he was unfairly projecting, and pointed out all of the specific things that I had done to try to gain his trust and to disabuse him of his prejudiced distrust, he conceded my point.  When I challenged him to describe one single shred of justification for his demonstrated distrust, he had nothing.  He promised to adjust himself .... which lasted all of about 1 whole session.  Then it was right back to the same ol' same ol', continuing to justify his disruptively-gamist play with what amounts to "well, we've gotta be prepared for when you hit us with the Big Screw".  How does a guy deal with something like that?

Fred's Prima Donna-ism caused one player to quit, and was on the verge of having someone else quit .... which was really immaterial to Fred, because he didn't find either of those characters particularly interesting.





Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 01, 2012, 04:24:01 PM
The rest of the group
I thought I'd add this -- it might help to complete the picture:
- Jack:  also our White Wolf Storyteller.  When asked why he only GM's White Wolf, he admits that it boils down to a self-efficacy issue -- fair enough for me.  As a player, he approaches every situation like he's playing an epic game of chess.  While he likes his Perfect Equilibrium, as well; he's much different about it than Fred.  Jack gladly accepts challenges, and is content with meeting with them "in the moment" (which facilitates climatic play) -- all the while, keeping his "eye on the prize", so to speak.  Additionally, he would never even consider encroaching on another player's autonomy.  The problem with his methodical plodding is that he looks to be locked in decision-paralysis, which makes scene resolution take forever -- I try to work with him on that when I can.  Otherwise, for the most part, he's a fairly balanced personality and fun to game with. 
Is in the process of painting a mural on one of the walls in his house with a scene that was played out in one of our games. (how's that for impact?!!!)

-Bob, a.k.a., "mr. quirky".  Bob loves to try and regale people with stories of games past where his characters did something completely unexpected to win the day.  And then tries to recreate this.  Constantly.  In the most weird and quirky ways he can imagine.  Loves emergent story.  Goes along to get along.  Overall good guy.

- Jim:  fairly new to the group.  As long as he gets to stab something in the face in a very climatic manner once in a while, he stays happy.  Believes that "all roads lead to Rome" in an imperative.  Currently partnered with me in creating our own RPG (hopefully to be released within the year).  When it comes to gaming, he's basically a younger version of me (with some subtle differences) -- will do well with some refinement.

- Kate: Fred's wife.  At game, she's very submissive to Fred.  Prefers to influence plot "behind the scenes" via what we've termed a "closed table".  Make of that what you will.  (incedently, I greatly prefer an "open table", so getting her to engage was next to impossible).
Has since dropped out of gaming, due to schedule clash and the recent arrival of a newborn.

- Jill: Kate's best friend.  She very much seems like the ideal player for my games; but due to her submissiveness to Fred, it's hard to get her to step up to the plate for anything other than to stab something in the face.
Has since moved out of state, so no longer a concern.



Well, there it is.  Thanks for hanging on.
The good thing about front-loading the walls-o'-text is that it will allow me to be rather concise from this point on.

I know that this is a lot to unpack and decipher; and thank you ahead of time for the time and effort.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: stefoid on January 01, 2012, 09:56:41 PM
Whoah.  I didnt read all of it, but yeah, you want a different game to at least Fred.  So thas defiantely CA.  I mean, your saying Fred is "hugely satisifed" playing the game.  Thats sounds great!  (For Fred).  So Fred gets gamist fun from his games - plans the planning, strategy, execution. 

The real trouble is if hes the only one having fun in that way.  If you have a team of players who are all into  squad-based tactical play, then shared quibbling over resources (spending treasure etc...)  is fine - the team needs more protection against fire, the team needs more damage capability against heavy armor, etc...

And you _are_ playing D&D 3.5, right, which is right up that alley.  So it makes sense.

IF youre the only one who has the issue, and you still want to play with a group that has fun playing this way, then you have to conform to the expectations of the game they want to play - you are there to provide the right level of challenge such that if they plan and execute properly, they win, and if they plan and execute poorly, they lose. 





Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Callan S. on January 01, 2012, 10:35:38 PM
Hi JJ, (do you have a real name we can call you by?)

There's alot there. I thought I'd just ask if you have trouble developing material for play when essentially the player doesn't contribute to the material, they just chew up what you've made into component atoms and move on?

In terms of options, it seems pivotal whether A: You need something back from the players in terms of contribution, in order to generate more material or B: Your quite capable of generating material till the cows come home?

If it's B, then there's some potential.

As a quick note on the adversarial discussions, it basically sounds like he's been using the games to assert his real life pecking order over you. Without games, he's starting to do it in discussions. While before he was so nice as a friend because he got this all out in the game session. Really he's kind of bent on having this style of friendship. Occasionally he needs to lord over you (frankly you can see a naked weakness in such a need, but anyway...). Someone I roleplayed with that I discussed games about I eventually discovered he thought he was my teacher rather than peer who discussed game theory with him. He refered to me as his padawan at one point - I kind of shrugged it off, but latter in trying to discuss a game he ran, he exploded. You don't question the teacher, after all!

It's not impossible to deal with other peoples warts, we all have them (you too, from what I read here!). It's a matter of deciding though, rather than just trying to 'go with the flow' on it. In my case, I sadly lost contact. I suddenly realised the whole friendship worked around - well, not friendship but a teacher pupil social pecking order and sadly I'm too bullheaded for that shit. Well, I tried, but he started bitching about a group he was playing with and previously I had taken this as a prompt for discussion as peers. But really it was about him knowing better and even though I tried to prompt him to talk about the possitives, he just kept slipping back into how they were crap, etc. Which eventually meant acknowledging him as knowing better/being the grand teacher.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Chris_Chinn on January 02, 2012, 08:10:26 AM
Hi,

Welcome to the Forge!

I think this post might be really worth reading and thinking about how much this lines up with Fred:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=29073.msg271730#msg271730

I've often labeled the hyper paranoid, over planning stuff as "abused gamer syndrome" - so much expecting death from anything and everything, that, as you point out, it becomes about planning everything to avoid actually engaging the rules or risk, then hitting the "I win button" by only allowing for automatically successful actions.

A variation of that which also shows up involves making it completely opaque why the series of actions is being undertaken ("First I get a bag.  Then I get a rope.  Then I tie the rope around the bag...") - mostly because if the GM doesn't know what your overall intent is, they can't block your "completely innocuous actions" as you complete some plan.

Chris


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: stefoid on January 02, 2012, 03:17:11 PM
Oh, I read a bit more - yeah other players are not into it.  OK.

The way I figure it, the GM is doing everyone a favour by running the game, and as long as the GM can and does articulate the type of game to the group before play "hey a wanna run a game that works like this..." and they agree to play, then thats how the game should be played, right?

what might be helpful though, is if you picka game to mechanically support the way you want to play, rather than D&D 3.5

I think the game in question is doomed unelss you kick Fred out.  Why put everybody through a game that isnt fun except for one person?


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 03, 2012, 12:11:30 PM
Hey guys, thanks for the responses so far.  I think I like the direction this is going; so let's see what I can do to oblige.

stefoid,
(...) shared quibbling over resources (spending treasure etc...)  is fine (...)

(...)

And you _are_ playing D&D 3.5, right, which is right up that alley.  So it makes sense.

IF youre the only one who has the issue, and you still want to play with a group that has fun playing this way, then you have to conform to the expectations of the game they want to play - you are there to provide the right level of challenge such that if they plan and execute properly, they win, and if they plan and execute poorly, they lose. 
yes, shared quibbling is fine .... the key word there is "shared".  That isn't happening at all.
For clarification, in what exact context were you pointing out the specific Game? (i.e., treasure stuff? gamism?)
Yes, while it isn't necessarily clear in my previous posts, I do make it a point to try to adapt to the group's needs.  As to your "right level of challenge" note, some people don't cope well with having flaws in their plans exposed (Fred, for example, has a tendency to meltdown and accuse the GM of going out or his way to screw him over -- 'cause, you know, how could his plan have actually been flawed, right?).  It really is quite off-putting; and eventually, critical mass is reached; and, well, .... I'm at a particular  point in my life where I'm simply not in the mood to indulge that kind of behavior by interacting with it in anyway.
Quote
The way I figure it, the GM is doing everyone a favour by running the game, and as long as the GM can and does articulate the type of game to the group before play "hey a wanna run a game that works like this..." and they agree to play, then thats how the game should be played, right?
My sentiments exactly.
Quote
what might be helpful though, is if you picka game to mechanically support the way you want to play, rather than D&D 3.5
I'm listening --


Hi Callan,
Hi JJ, (do you have a real name we can call you by?)
That's actually what a lot of my friends call me.  Some of them truncate it to just a single "J".  But if you'd prefer ..... my drivers license says "Jason". ;-p
Quote
There's alot there. I thought I'd just ask if you have trouble developing material for play when essentially the player doesn't contribute to the material, they just chew up what you've made into component atoms and move on?

In terms of options, it seems pivotal whether A: You need something back from the players in terms of contribution, in order to generate more material or B: Your quite capable of generating material till the cows come home?

If it's B, then there's some potential.
Hmm.  Well, I can pump out material all day long; but without meaningful engagement by the players, then there's no point -- I might as well just go write a novel.
In order for me to generate material that is interesting for me to watch, then yes, I do need meaningful player feedback.  In order for me to have fun, I need for the players to show some initiative -- it's kinda the point.  Otherwise if just feels like I'm leading them by the nose.
Please, continue.

Quote
As a quick note on the adversarial discussions, it basically sounds like he's been using the games to assert his real life pecking order over you. Without games, he's starting to do it in discussions. While before he was so nice as a friend because he got this all out in the game session. Really he's kind of bent on having this style of friendship. Occasionally he needs to lord over you (frankly you can see a naked weakness in such a need, but anyway...). Someone I roleplayed with that I discussed games about I eventually discovered he thought he was my teacher rather than peer who discussed game theory with him. He refered to me as his padawan at one point - I kind of shrugged it off, but latter in trying to discuss a game he ran, he exploded. You don't question the teacher, after all!

It's not impossible to deal with other peoples warts, we all have them (you too, from what I read here!). It's a matter of deciding though, rather than just trying to 'go with the flow' on it. In my case, I sadly lost contact. I suddenly realised the whole friendship worked around - well, not friendship but a teacher pupil social pecking order and sadly I'm too bullheaded for that shit. Well, I tried, but he started bitching about a group he was playing with and previously I had taken this as a prompt for discussion as peers. But really it was about him knowing better and even though I tried to prompt him to talk about the possitives, he just kept slipping back into how they were crap, etc. Which eventually meant acknowledging him as knowing better/being the grand teacher.
That pretty much sums up where I'm at right now.  I was just hoping that might be something else to be done.
BTW, please describe these warts of mine that you derived from my posts -- I'm interested (I rarely turn down an opportunity for self improvement; thus I welcome constructive criticism).



Hey Chris,
I think this post might be really worth reading and thinking about how much this lines up with Fred:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=29073.msg271730#msg271730

I've often labeled the hyper paranoid, over planning stuff as "abused gamer syndrome" - so much expecting death from anything and everything, that, as you point out, it becomes about planning everything to avoid actually engaging the rules or risk, then hitting the "I win button" by only allowing for automatically successful actions.
Thanks for the link (damn, that Ron guy really knows his stuff).
I also really like your term "abused gamer syndrome" (I'll just call it "AGS" for right now)
Like I mentioned before, I noticed his AGS right away in the first session.  Despite my best efforts for 2 years, I simply couldn't breach it (let alone break it).  However, you do add some insight to it -- I'm not sure that I've ever fully recognized this specifically as a method of avoiding the rules.  The more I think on it, though, the more that makes sense.  Additionally, identifying the issue for what it is also lets me know that I may have unwittingly acted counter-productively in my attempts to resolve matters -- every time one of his plans didn't work as planned, he'd double-down and get even more paranoid (at one point, he was seriously gonna have his character go hide in a mountain somewhere until the major campaign-defining problem blew over). 
But then, that poses a major question for me: If letting the plans work only serves to encourage further planning (through reward), and disrupting those plans only serves to pressure him to plan more/better, and talking to him head-on gets dismissed .... what the heck can be done to break him out of his Skinner box?  It's like watching a gambling addict at a blackjack table.  On that note, I know from my own experiences education that the only way to break an addict of his addiction is to start with removing the stimulus (which seems to imply that Fred needs to be removed from gaming).
It's definitely something to chew on.
Quote
A variation of that which also shows up involves making it completely opaque why the series of actions is being undertaken ("First I get a bag.  Then I get a rope.  Then I tie the rope around the bag...") - mostly because if the GM doesn't know what your overall intent is, they can't block your "completely innocuous actions" as you complete some plan.
I'm very familiar with this one; though I've never associated it with AGS, nor would I have ever associated it with Gamism (if that is indeed what you're saying).  But again, the more I think on it this way, the more sense it makes.
On this particular behavior, I'm of 2 minds -- and, as with most things, context is everything.
On one hand, something like, on occasion, this can really serve to bring about a moment of levity when, for example, you have a series of sessions that have been especially brutal.
On the other hand, if this is just the way the player operates by default, then it gets really annoying, and (in my experience) usually doesn't amount to much more than childish antics that henge on exploitation of  rules loopholes.

Thinking about AGS reminds me of a term that has been batted around at a couple of other forums that I've frequented -- "IP Proofing".  "IP" stands for "iterative probability"; as in, proofing your character against the iterative probability that "team monster" will win.  I see this mentality all over the gaming internet; and the justification for this type of thing is demonstrative of (in my not-so-humble opinion) the sickness born out of the "every child gets a trophy" mentality.   But I digress.



Thanks guys.  What else y'all got?


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 03, 2012, 12:26:46 PM
Just had another thought (refers back to the thread title) ...
How much pre-game material related to setting players' expectations is too much?  It seems like every time I get a disruptive player or experience instances of incoherent/dysfunctional play, I end up having yet more things that get added to the pre-game briefing (to the point that it's not so "brief" anymore).  I now find myself spending a whole evening "interviewing" perspective players, before I even let them come near my table.
After having spent a little time lurking here, I'm tempted to just have any/everyone read the Glossary and "neophytes threads", and then discuss that.  But a big part of me feels like that may be a bit too much.

Thoughts?


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Chris_Chinn on January 03, 2012, 02:06:34 PM
Hi J,

Quote
But then, that poses a major question for me: If letting the plans work only serves to encourage further planning (through reward), and disrupting those plans only serves to pressure him to plan more/better, and talking to him head-on gets dismissed .... what the heck can be done to break him out of his Skinner box? 

There's two issues here.   

First is, what is the level of player power in the game you're trying to run vs. what Fred wants.  For example, look at the Same Page Tool I wrote: http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-same-page-tool/ and what the GM's Role is and the Player's Role is.

The question is, is everyone at the table aware of how this game you're running is supposed to go and on the same page?

Second, there's trust.  If talking to Fred gets dismissed, you have a problem.  Any situation where you cannot talk honestly and engage honestly on all sides about how the game works, there's a fundamental lack of trust that means the game cannot work. 

This means Fred has to actually have enough trust in what you are saying, that you are not just paying lip service to whatever level of power or influence the player is supposed to have.   That said, it's not necessarily Fred's fault if he can't exercise trust in this situation simply because a good chunk of rpg culture advice is, "Lie to your players", which is basically how we get this situation.

It also means that you have to live up to how you say the game is supposed to go. 

The reason I put together that tool was because a lot of groups have formed either assuming all roleplaying works the same way and wondering what's going wrong when their assumptions don't match, or, not being able to honestly articulate how their game play is actually supposed to work.

Part of this process means that this discussion might end with Fred going, "I don't want to play that way." and everyone accepting that this is not the game for him without any personal judgment on either side.  (Anymore than, "Wanna go see this music show?" "Naw, I'm not into that band, maybe another show another time.")

There is no way to "make" anyone like anything, and there's no need to force him to change.  You guys need to connect on what you're really expecting from play and decide if there can be a meeting point or not.  And if not, you go separate ways and play different games.

Chris


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: stefoid on January 03, 2012, 07:03:15 PM
Play a game that place a solid structure around how the players and the GM interact, what the players and GM can do etc... 

I think something like Apocalypse World would be good for this.  Baiscally Fred can make all the plans he wants, but when it comes down to rolling the dice, if he rolls low there will be consequences - it has a list right there on the page.  You can argue with me but you cant argue with the rules...

Also wear a tall pointy hat.  for status.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Caldis on January 04, 2012, 01:44:34 PM

I hate to say it but it looks like your situation is beyond the point of saving.  Your friend has an idea on how to play and as much as you can try and talk to him and try to get your expectations on the same page it doesnt seem like he's willing to listen for longer than a session or to respond positively beyond sulking.  I'd say it's a given that there's a CA difference going on and that there's a very good chance that your friend has a disfunctional playstyle i.e. one that doesnt work well with others that he's not bullying (cant say for certain without hearing his side of the story).

I think your options are either to not play at all with Fred anymore or simply not to run games with him.  Play in games he's running if they are decent or join in the storyteller games run by Jack.  Look elsewhere if you need more in terms of a gaming fix but I cant imagine you ever managing to get Fred to play the way you like and I dont think you are willing to play in a fashion that supports his playstyle.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 05, 2012, 03:12:39 PM
Thanks guys.  I think I've gotten most of what I've needed.  Disappointingly, my core suspicions have been confirmed.


Hey Callan,
Your question really has me intrigued.  It's been a couple of days, so I'll re-prompt :
There's alot there. I thought I'd just ask if you have trouble developing material for play when essentially the player doesn't contribute to the material, they just chew up what you've made into component atoms and move on?

In terms of options, it seems pivotal whether A: You need something back from the players in terms of contribution, in order to generate more material or B: Your quite capable of generating material till the cows come home?

If it's B, then there's some potential.
Hmm.  Well, I can pump out material all day long; but without meaningful engagement by the players, then there's no point -- I might as well just go write a novel.
In order for me to generate material that is interesting for me to watch, then yes, I do need meaningful player feedback.  In order for me to have fun, I need for the players to show some initiative -- it's kinda the point.  Otherwise if just feels like I'm leading them by the nose.
Please, continue.
I'm assuming that there was a follow-up response contingent to my answer?


@stefoid:
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system, by using some sort of (properly articulated) "primer", perhaps based off of something like Chris's "same page tool"? 
Yes, that may inadvertently conflict with some of the assumptions made by your system-of-choice; but, for me, the main utility of a published game is to provide a codified method of conflict/task resolution (try not to read too much in to that).
Interesting that you should mention Apocalypse World.  This is one of the games that popped up recently when I was doing some market research for the game I have in development right now -- an apocalypse-based setting (which should start being unveiled in the next few months).  While I've only skimmed the AW material, I'm not sure how I feel about it -- the character sheet didn't give me a lot to be excited about .... perhaps I'll give it a second look.
As far as "traditional fantasy" goes ... I've just downloaded Mazes & Minotaurs, and will be giving it a look this weekend.  I've looked at some other games, and have been rather unimpressed so far.  I'm starting to finally get the idea that "D&D" may just have way too much baggage attached to it to be able to do anything meaningful in regards to "same-page" and calibrating expectations.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 05, 2012, 03:23:36 PM
oh, I almost forgot ...

@Chris:
thanks for the link -- I also hit a few of the other posts .... that site is now bookmarked.  Big help going forward.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: stefoid on January 05, 2012, 05:34:56 PM

@stefoid:
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system

Hows that working for you :)


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 05, 2012, 06:11:02 PM

@stefoid:
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system

Hows that working for you :)
touche. ;-p

To be fair, he's just one guy ....  the answer is - or at least should be - refinement of presentation.  (or am I just being stubborn?)


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: stefoid on January 06, 2012, 01:42:49 AM
AW is very structured in that it tells you explicitly when you roll dice , and provides a framework for the results.  Might give you less to argue about.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Chris_Chinn on January 08, 2012, 10:48:17 AM
Hi,

Quote
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system, by using some sort of (properly articulated) "primer", perhaps based off of something like Chris's "same page tool"? 
(snip to different response, same topic)
...the answer is - or at least should be - refinement of presentation.  (or am I just being stubborn?)

You'll notice in that last reply, I've got the big caveat that you can give the big presentation, but, at the end of the day, it may just be he doesn't want to play that way.  Like I said, the problem has several steps you need to work through:

1.  Being clear with him
2.  Whether he believes you or not
3.  Whether he's capable of honestly articulating what he wants back TO you (recognition, articulation, trust, etc.)
4.  Whether those two things are compatible

In my experience, the player who spends a lot of energy and time avoiding the rules, is probably so low on trust that the situation is pretty unlikely to end with, "Wow! You mean we're actually playing like THIS instead of THAT? Oh, let me change how I'm doing things."

Most of the time, I've seen what happens is it becomes a "discussion"(argument) about what constitutes good roleplaying and how gaming should work, which is, in fact, actually the person repeating truisms without actually connecting them to play ("Fun is all that matters!" "I just want a good story!" "I'm playing my character!" "This would be realistic!", etc.)

The Same Page Tool is designed to make the idea clear, but if you get "What if?" "But", etc. type deflections the answer is, "Man, I'm sorry I didn't have this clear when we started playing.  It sounds like you want to play a different game.   How about I give you a call when we start playing a game that fits those criteria?"

Of course, this gives you the other problem - people assume not-playing together is a form of personal friendship rejection. 

Chris


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Callan S. on January 09, 2012, 01:02:34 PM
Hi Jason,

Sorry, I went on holidays for a week shortly after posting and forgot to note that.

Quote
Hmm.  Well, I can pump out material all day long; but without meaningful engagement by the players, then there's no point -- I might as well just go write a novel.
In order for me to generate material that is interesting for me to watch, then yes, I do need meaningful player feedback.  In order for me to have fun, I need for the players to show some initiative -- it's kinda the point.  Otherwise if just feels like I'm leading them by the nose.
Please, continue
Well, it sounds like gamist, play to win (or atleast one type of gamist PTW) doesn't appear as meaningful player feedback to you. So I'm not sure you can enjoy gaming with him. To do so - well, remember 'the big screw' he referenced. Well you'd probably have to enjoy delivering screw overs. If you think of Gygax inventing rust monsters and treasure chest shaped mimics and cursed magic weapons (and monsters who pretended to be ceilings...or floors...or walls...), screw overs were the dealio. You enjoyed delivering screw overs or trying to evade them or you just weren't up for the game, either as GM or player. Certainly the computer game 'Nethack' feels like it has screwed me over with it's deaths (people invented the acronym YASD because of this game (Yet Another Stupid Death)), and it's beloved of many people.

Thing is, it gets a bit souless and he will most likely avoid developing any sort of characterisation because that just gives the GM another means of screwing the player over. It's not impossible to pump out souless material, but you might only be able to pump out dramatic material (which begs dramatic engagement or otherwise, as you say, you may as well write a novel) and you are actually unable to produce souless material.

I think I've had perhaps some similar issues in my early GM'ing career, onwards. Writing some dramatic material, only for it to be engaged purely in an 'overcome it all' way. My responce was to try and figure some formula of generating material that always grabs. But it never seemed to work - the formulaic stuff didn't grab them, but the dramatic stuff, while it grabbed them, they did nothing with it but try to overcome it all. It may be a special kind of dysfunctional play, where some players are attracted to dramatic material, but can't seem to engage it dramatically, yet they find formulaic material dull, regardless of obstacles to overcome. All they do is drain the GM.

So I dunno, what do you think?

Quote
BTW, please describe these warts of mine that you derived from my posts -- I'm interested (I rarely turn down an opportunity for self improvement; thus I welcome constructive criticism).
The thing is, if your playing under a traditional game structure with the golden rule and all that, how can using those rules in any particular way be wrong? It creates a certain relativist environment, where dropping a heap of gold on players feet is relatively equal to using GM fiat to capture, torture and try and berate players into certain use of their PC/the spoken fiction they speak.

Something to try might be house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat (and the house rule also nulls the golden rule, so you can't use it to return that GM fiat ability mid game). By removing such an ability, it might make gameplay different when you can't draw upon that sort of GM fiat maul at any moment. Might feel more exciting because of having less control over the whole event (it becomes more like everyones in the same shopping trolley together, even the GM, zooming downhill in directions highly uncontrolled!)


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Erik Weissengruber on January 10, 2012, 06:02:20 AM
Fred also refuses to "just do it" -- ever (well, at least not without sulking).  Every course of action must be meticulously planned, to the point of trying to establish a  trembling hand perfect equilibrium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trembling_hand_perfect_equilibrium) -- an equilibrium that must exist at all times (obviously with continuous refinement).  And nobody is allowed to muck up his plans.  When confronted on this matter, he responds with a tightly-constructed defense as to why it's the only reasonable approach/solution.  (oh, btw -- I've even started to delve in to formal Game Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory) in an effort to try to find solutions ... but there's a lot out there, and I've only got so much time and energy). 

You might want to point out that even the simplest scenarios handled by Game Theory deal with likely or best possible outcomes of decisions made in conditions of uncertainty.  If you assume a repeated game, you can weigh your chances and try strategy A in 75% of the instances and B 25% of the time.  And that is the best you can do.

You minimize the number and value of negative outcomes, and maximize the best possible chances you can get from an opponent who is also trying to minimize their number of negative outcomes.

Anyone interested in games of imperfect information should be willing to roll with this.  Your friend seems to want to play a game of perfect information.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: David Shockley on January 10, 2012, 05:51:43 PM
It doesn't sound to me like he would enjoy it if you tried to challenge him, so I don't think its really an issue of 'Fred is a Gamist'. (I'm a bit biased though, I'm not sure I believe in someone being a 'Gamist' or whatever. I mean a preference sure, but most people, even if they really like chocolate ice cream, are not going to turn down a scoop of vanilla.)

Changing games is helpful, not just because DnD encourages some of these habits.. but also because they are _habits_ and even if he wants to change them it will probably be easier if you change the context somewhat. The greater the change, the more likely to shake him out of them.

Apocalypse World:
In AW whenever the players look to the GM to talk it is his 'turn'. The GM then picks a 'move' and makes it. GM moves are all just guidelines for adding to the fiction, things like 'announce future badness' or 'offer an opportunity with a cost'. So if the players come up with a plan, and then look to you to tell them what happens, you are supposed to respond with a move, and they are pretty much all going to escalate the situation in some way. (You could also respond by saying how their plan succeeds, and making your move as a fictional consequence, or aftermath to their success.). The moves give you a lot of freedom, but you aren't allowed to screw the players over with your turns unless they have either failed a roll, or 'handed you an opportunity on a plate'.

That's the part of the rules most relevant to your situation, I think.

I'd recommend With Great Power. It is very structured, and requires the heroes to lose some conflicts before they can win overall. It is also further from DnD than AW is, I think. It is a system which doesn't give any mechanical advantage to people with better equipment/powers. It follows 'comic book logic', where even though Superman is more powerful than Batman he isn't more likely to succeed in a conflict.

I'm sure there are other good candidates though. And I'm not saying it is _impossible_ to fix while still playing DnD, I just think it will be harder.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: David Berg on January 11, 2012, 01:08:37 AM
Double_J, if you want to see what mileage you can get out of pre-game presentations (and I have no idea whether that's a good idea in this case or not), here's my recommendation, based on experience:

1) Clarify aloud what's going to be fun about this activity.

2) Clarify aloud what players must do to achieve that fun.

(If you need help with Steps 1 & 2, you could try Chris's Same Page Tool.  Just make sure, at the end, to clarify the Fun and the Path to Fun.)

3) Put the responsibility on everyone to hold each other accountable for that.

4) Demonstrate how to gently, and in a cooperative spirit, address honest errors.

Then, in play, put your money where your mouth is.  Each time someone plays wrong, correct them instantly, citing the pre-game agreement on the chosen path to fun and cordially offering a way back onto it. 

Example from a game I ran: "Searching the prison is a fine plan, but remember, this is a teamwork investigation game, so you should at least announce your intentions to the other characters before going off on your own.  They may have cool ideas to help the search!"

Also, when you make corrections, encourage others to do the same, including correcting you when you slip up.  Maybe even try to call out your own mistakes if others don't, to show that the group is accountable to the principle, rather than the players being accountable to the GM.  I've definitely gotten great mileage out of that.

Ps,
-David


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: dindenver on January 11, 2012, 02:15:27 PM
JJ,
  Well, there are a couple of issues floating around in this post. the one I want to address as the most urgent issue is perceived aggressiveness.
  I think that you and he need to sit down and talk it out.. But be prepared to accept his criticisms. Honestly, it sounds like you would be a hard GM for me to play with. That is not meant as a put-down, but as a way for you to realize that style issues go both ways. If there are things he is doing consistently that annoy you, than there is a good chance you are doing things consistently to annoy him.

  Although I wouldn't be able to stand his pushy behavior, otherwise this guy would be awesome to play with. When you have a moment go check out the DM section of the WotC forums. I don't play D&D anymore, but I wanted to see what new GMs were up against when I was writing the GM section of my game. The vast majority of the posts had to do with trying, somehow, to get the players to plan and think before charging into battle. Now, too much of a good thing CAN be bad, but honestly, I would much rather have a player that wants to scope an issue out and come up with a plan before charging in, even if it is taken to extremes.

  Next, I wanted to talk about your GM style. It really seems that you have certain set piece battles that you want to hit before the night is through. That is all fine and it is well within the spirit of D&D. But, you can't offer to have sandbox play and then get upset when the kids ignore one corner of the sandbox. I wouldn't go so far as to say you are railroading, but I would say that your desire to present your cool contributions to the table are getting in the way of the other players' contributions at the table. I mean the description of how you violently tried to shutdown any attempt at skullduggery is very telling about this. And the fact that this seems to be the same tactics that your indestructible shadow organization uses is even more indicative that you have a playstyle you prefer that you are not communicating effectively. And I do mean playstyle, not CA. the fact that you both can converse in great lengthy detail about rules interpretations tells me that your CA is probably not that far off from his. But, instead the style of play you want to see at the table is different.

  Lastly, I would suggest a different system for you. One that allows you to do more aggressive scene framing. That seems to be your bone of contention, where is the action happening and what is going on. I think if you and he played a game where the characters did not need equipment to succeed/survive and that allowed you to say, "OK, next scene, you are on a pirate boat and the captain is leering at you menacingly" that you and he would have a grand old time. Maybe Spirit of the Century or Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System? These are games where over the top action and aggressive scene framing are the norm.

  Finally, I am one of those Risk Averse players and I can give you some insight into what is going on (and it almost never has to do with trust).
  First, I usually compare my experiences against what I am told the game is about (told by the GM). So, if the GM says I am doing over the top action, then I will be disappointed if they give me a penalty to do a back-flip while I dodge. Similarly if I am told this is a gritty medieval horror game and my first encounter is a rainbow-colored Pegasus, I will be equally disappointed. Also, a big part of this attitude has to do with something I am sure you have heard many times, "I am not out to screw my players, if they die, it is because they did something stupid." Nowadays, I understand the sentiment, but taken literally it means, "if my character dies, it is because I did something stupid." So, based on that idea, I am going to slow down and look at everything from more than one angle. Also, there are a ton of games that when my character dies, I don't get to play, sometimes for hours, longer if I need GM approval for stuff. Plus, in a lvl 15 campaign that is played from lvl 5, then there are a lot of questions around what level will I be if I have to make a new character and what equipment would they have? I know you don't care for equipment rules, but the reality is, that somewhere between a quarter and half of a characters effectiveness comes from their equipment in D&D. Which, again, begs the question of why you haven't switched systems given your dislike of equipment rules and shopping and the need to perform those activities in D&D 3.5.
  All of this is not to say that you are doing it wrong (or that he is), but rather an attempt to let you see how the other side sees these sorts of issues. I GM at least 50% of the time (usually more) and have had issues with problem players. I really do sympathize with you. But I just don't think it is constructive to lay it all on him and not accept that you are contributing to at least part of the issue.
  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, I love a good discussion.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 15, 2012, 07:01:34 PM
Hey guys -- sorry for the delay ... it's been a hectic week. (lucky me -- I've got the whole next week off ... WOOHOO!)
I have, however, had a few minutes here and there to at least read the posts; so I've had plenty of time to really think on things.
That being said -- after further discussions with some of my other players (most notably Bob and Jim), I have finally come to the determination that Fred and I cannot simultaneously occupy the same game table.  At first, I thought of him as sort of a Gordian Knot .... but the more I think on it, the more I come to realize that he's a lost cause. 
However, I think that this discussion can still serve its purpose (and for me, that is both examining what went wrong here and how to conduct business moving forward ... in respect to the title).

Let me give a little update as to the aforementioned discussions with Jim and Bob:
We are, all three, in agreement that Fred's planning are very extreme -- he really does insist on not acting without that "perfect information" that Erik mentioned.  If he's forced to act with imperfect/incomplete information, he simply holds up everything and just waits for something to happen to us (or throws a tantrum if someone else in the party tries to push us in to action .... I can give examples if needed) -- as mentioned earlier, this isn't isolated to any game; this is just the way he plays (he has mentioned from time to time that he learned some of his habits from playing Paranoia -- and isn't shy about expressing that he believes that said habits are appropriate for any game).

Bob also reminded of something else that had bothered him (but had forgotten about): Bob's character had a fairly detailed background that seemed to be custom-made to go hand-in-hand with the overall theme of the game (as coincidental as it may have been).  I mean, he might as well have just called his character "Mr. Macguffin", as far as I was concerned.  Not only that, but it was painfully obvious (or at least should have been) that he was playing right in to my hand.  But Fred was having none of it -- he basically said that he didn't find any of what Bob wanted to do to be interesting, and just wanted to go back to torturing henchmen for information. 
Bob tried to press for it, at which point Fred was just like "fine -- go off and do it on your own then; but if anything happens to you, it's all your fault, and we aren't gonna help you".  I even mentioned that Bob did indeed have a strong angle to explore, to which Fred responded "screw your trap -- we're doing this my way".  Which derailed in to yet another fruitless argument over the fact that I indeed was not out to screw them -- he explicitly wasn't buying it.  So, in Bob's effort to get along and still be able to explore his character, he let his character do his thing off-screen -- but was forced to bring in another character just so that he would have something to do at the table.
Bob is still a little miffed over that; and I wish I had pressed harder -- potentially even openly ignoring everything else while eagerly exploring Bob's direction (hoping that Fred, et.al., would be forced to follow).  But as it was, I did what I generally do and let the players hash it out themselves.
To be honest, I seem to go (too far) out of my way to avoid being accused of "railroading" -- to a fault.  I just don't want to be "that DM".  This is just the first time that fun was compromised in the process -- at least that I can remember.  The few times that I have invoked DM fiat (or otherwise imposed railroading techniques) to hard-line something, it has always felt really awkward and I've generally regretted it (if not in the act itself, then at least in the implementation).

Bob has expressed that he'd like to see me take a stronger hand in these types of situations; and Jim has recently out-right refused to sit the same table as Fred ever again.
***note: I know that it may seem that I just like dumping on Fred a lot -- I'm just simply trying to isolate a few things and explore some specific problems .... Fred really is a good guy and fun to just hang out with***


So, back to the responses (btw, I've posed many of these points to Bob and Jim; so, much of what follows is what has come out of those discussions):

@ Chris:
It is what it is.  I could try to re-engage; but I'm skeptical.  You make sense; but at this point, I'm just so drained that I don't think that I'd be up for it right now.


@ Callan:
There was a time that I thoroughly enjoyed the "Gygaxian" model; but I've noticed that as time has progressed, that model has become less and less interesting to me.
My incapacity for pumping out the soulless, formulaic material is more a function of boredom than anything.  Draining indeed.
So, what do I think?  I think that you are tugging at a thread that reaches to the heart of one of my major issues here.  I've not thought of things in quite this perspective (or at least not really isolated/codified things quite this way).
The thing is, if your playing under a traditional game structure with the golden rule and all that, how can using those rules in any particular way be wrong? It creates a certain relativist environment, where dropping a heap of gold on players feet is relatively equal to using GM fiat to capture, torture and try and berate players into certain use of their PC/the spoken fiction they speak.

Something to try might be house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat (and the house rule also nulls the golden rule, so you can't use it to return that GM fiat ability mid game). By removing such an ability, it might make gameplay different when you can't draw upon that sort of GM fiat maul at any moment. Might feel more exciting because of having less control over the whole event (it becomes more like everyones in the same shopping trolley together, even the GM, zooming downhill in directions highly uncontrolled!)
I'm still struggling a bit with this one.  I would much appreciate a little more articulation here (if you don't mind).
As for "house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat" .... with someone like Fred, I think that this would be disastrous.  The presence of GM fiat capacity is one of the few things that keep him from taking control of the entire game (i.e., from everybody).  I think that I've reached the point where I believe that someone that is that much of a control freak needs to be left sulking (with constructive discussion afterward).  YMMV.


@ Erik:
I think that you've hit the nail on the head with the "need for perfect information".  Hell, he blew up at me over the whole "rain is fulling up the canyon" because I didn't adequately explain the specific and proper geological/meteorological conditions (never mind that I explained that I'm neither a geologist nor a meteorologist and that it was just an element add to add depth and interest), and continued haranguing me until I finally just said "fine, it's not raining". 
I think that I might want to spend some more time continuing to familiarize myself with Game Theory, and learning how to better implement it as a part of my toolbox.


@ David S.:
No, he definitely does not enjoy being challenged.
I take that back:  he enjoys the mental challenge of a puzzle.  However, he does get rather pissed when he's unable to figure out the "trick" of a given puzzle, or if the "trick" turns out to be something other than what he wants it to be.  He thoroughly hates (to the point of revolt) it when he's not in control of the circumstances and the inherent challenges of said types of situations. 
He wasn't quite as bad when we started playing V:tR .... until he "figured out" the Storyteller's style and the dynamics of that particular game.  Then it was back to usual.  He will always find something to argue about -- and then browbeat you to death with it.


@ David B.:
I really like the way you articulated that.
I'm not sure that I can really add anything to that; except that manipulative people can make it hard to do this in a good-faith fashion.


@ dindenver:
Wow.  That's quite a lot there.
I must agree with you on my lack of effective communication ..... which, incedently, is really the whole point of this thread (i.e., "how do I more effective communicate expectations").  And given that fact that I have agonized for months over "what can I do different, while still achieving desired results" .... well .... yeah.   And by "desired results" I mean "run/play the kind of game I like and get the kind of fun I want out of it".
As to what annoys him ... the only thing that I've ever been able to get out of him is that he wants to be able to have more control as a player over the story.  When I pressed him on it (by reminding him that they'd been given full reign with more control than a player oughta have a right to), his story shifted a little.  Then it became an issue of how the world reacted to them. 
He expressed how he thought various scenarios should've play out -- which necessarily meant that he wanted control over NPC actions.  He wanted the NPCs to do all the work for him -- which is fine for little stuff; but when it comes to major plot elements, as far as I'm concerned, that really is the purview of the PCs (and have expressed as much at game).  He wanted to be able to have Shadow Org. to be tied up in a neat little package so that he didn't have to worry about it.  But that was the whole point of the game -- I explained from the get-go that the whole campaign was intended to be a race to the end ..... it's not a race if you're the only competitor.  I explained that Shadow Org's structure was not the puzzle, and that I had absolutely no interest in making it such (being as I had just run a 2.5-year campaign where that was the puzzle; and as such was drained and thoroughly done with that angle).  I also pretty-much came out and said that such a puzzle wasn't solvable -- not because of fiat, but because of design .... and designed that way so as to specifically discourage that direction of exploration (primarily as an in-game mechanism, which inadvertently became a metagame structure).  I'm all for player agency and all that; but at some point you really do have to just accept certain basic game conceits and move on.

As to my set pieces .... that seems fair enough.  Granted, I usually have some stuff ready to drop in as needed (if needed); also, I do want there to be something to happen each session; but I'm not particularly attached to any given thing at a given session.  I do, however, need for there to be some movement towards some sort of climax, and "4-hours of ad hoc planning, followed by hitting a narrative win-button, followed by 2+ hours of treasure analysis" (regardless of whether or not any new treasure was had as a result of the win-button) does not fit my definition of "moving towards climax".

Risk Adverseness ....
I really have tried.  I explicitly won't let a party go blindly on a ride that they clearly are not tall enough for (after they know the risks ... well, then it's on them).  I've recently come to this determination (and please don't take this personally) -- if risk-taking and acting on imperfect information through an avatar in a completely imaginary context is too much to expect from someone, then perhaps the whole adventure-roleplaying thing is too much for their ego to handle (and should thus find another activity).
Yes, some level of risk adverseness is expected (and like you said, needed); but like you also said, some people take it too far.  What I want to know is this: how do you encourage a risk-adverse individual to actually act in the face of imperfect information and/or unbalanced odds?


@ recommendations for other games:
I've actually spent a significant amount of time searching out other games in recent months.  I must say that I've found most of them lacking (granted, I've only read them ... maybe playing them would be different).
Many of these games seem to be lacking in a hard structure, and as such seem like they'd involve a lot of "Magical Tea Party".  structure = consistency ; consistency = good.
Many of them have a narrative that just isn't my cup of tea.  In and of itself, whatever .... but when the mechanics push towards that narrative, I've gotta pass.
One trend I've noticed is "character-centric" design/theme/narrative.  I could go on quite a rant here; but I'll just leave it at that I am partial to a more "traditional" plot-centric model that is reinforced by the setting, and the characters explore/interact with plot through the setting.
Then there's those with just some foreign and wonky mechanics ...... some of it is just overly intrusive.
Sure, some of the undesired mechanics can be ignored; but not when it is plastered right smack dab in the middle of the character sheet.
I've run across 2-3 that have piqued my interest .... I'll see how it goes.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Chris_Chinn on January 15, 2012, 07:31:26 PM
Hi Double J,

Quote
That being said -- after further discussions with some of my other players (most notably Bob and Jim), I have finally come to the determination that Fred and I cannot simultaneously occupy the same game table.(snip) It is what it is.  I could try to re-engage; but I'm skeptical.  You make sense; but at this point, I'm just so drained that I don't think that I'd be up for it right now. 

Actually, there's no reason to re-engage.  That's pretty much the reason I laced my comments with a whole LOT of IF's, because it seemed like at best you guys weren't interested in the same game, and more likely there's social communication issues there.

Sounds like the latter is the issue.  Well, now you know and you don't have to pour energy into trying to make something work that isn't going to.

Chris


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Callan S. on January 15, 2012, 09:58:17 PM
Quote
So, in Bob's effort to get along and still be able to explore his character, he let his character do his thing off-screen -- but was forced to bring in another character just so that he would have something to do at the table.
Why does it work that way? If someone leaves the party, can't you just divide up time? I've done this while GM'ing - I give the seperated person a few minutes every so often, but the bulk of attention goes to the rest of the group. Generally the solo person gets less time than they would if they stuck with the party, but the capacity to head off is there.

Fred seems to say "Well, do X, but we wont come with you" as if he determines what we do - which he does, since your all joined at the hip. Frankly I'd just have my character march off to do something while he's doing all his planning stuff. What's that Fred, blah blah blah? Okay, see ya! But if the other players can't vote with their feet because when they leave it's all off screen - well then the GM operating that way is enabling Fred to take over. I'd enable people voting with their characters feet. You'd probably find they actually all team up again, without Fred, leaving him to having the few minutes every so often of planning.

Quote
As for "house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat" .... with someone like Fred, I think that this would be disastrous.  The presence of GM fiat capacity is one of the few things that keep him from taking control of the entire game (i.e., from everybody).  I think that I've reached the point where I believe that someone that is that much of a control freak needs to be left sulking (with constructive discussion afterward).  YMMV.
I wasn't talking about all GM fiat...not yet, anyway.

If one person at the table can take over the game from everybody, then that capacity to take over/that power vacuum is still there even if Fred is not playing. And someone will fill that vacuum. Not as bluntly taking it over as Fred. But is that the issue - it's okay for someone to take control of the entire game, as long as it's only in a certain way?

It's worth thinking about whether it's you as GM who normally fills that position, even if not in the same way Fred uses it. Pretty much all traditional RPG design and gaming sessions operate around this sort of power vacuum.

Quote
I'm still struggling a bit with this one.  I would much appreciate a little more articulation here (if you don't mind).
Can you tell me where your struggling with it?


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 17, 2012, 12:57:22 PM
Hey Callan,

Why does it work that way?  Well, that has to do with the particular group dynamic at the time.  Fred+Jill+Kate = 3/5 of the players (and as stated before, Jill and Kate always follow Fred's lead) ; Jim and Bob are readily marginalized (being that Fred doesn't like their play).

**** Wait just a minute .... I think I just realized something:  Fred didn't really start going over the top until Jill and Kate started showing up (at first it was just Fred -- at which point he was only starting to show signs) ..... Did the addition of Jill and Kate put Fred in the mindset that he was back to running the show? 
Given that Jill and Kate are players in games that he runs; and since Jill and Kate have only known gaming with Fred as GM (and Fred self-admittedly likes to keep a tight control on his games) .......
Holy snot bubbles -- Fred really did think (subconsciously) that he was running the game!!!
Here I was thinking that he was just waiting until he got the comfortable with the group to pounce in and take over.

There's my problem.

So, back to your question ...
It has worked that way because I allowed myself to fall in to the trap of "the squeaky wheel gets the oil".  As well as the reality that if Fred quit the game, then Jill and Kate would have left with him (that whole dynamic has recently changed, what with Kate dropping out of all gaming to take care of the newborn and Jill moving out of state).
And I think that I allowed myself to get pushed around like this for some simple (albeit embarrassing) reasons:
- in the last couple of years, I have found myself in a really low point in my life; and as such, I needed something to go "right" -- and I had somehow defined "right" as "maintaining my gaming group as-is".  I would have seen the act of my group falling apart as yet another indictment of my competence at life (piled on top of having lost my job, being estranged from my family, etc., ).  I'm not sure how my psyche would have handled it a year or so ago.  However, I have been approaching the point that I'm starting to not worry about it so much (which may be a good sign for me).

Fred gobbled-up power over the whole game.  With Fred gone, I expect that power vacuum to be filled by having everything going back to the way it was before Fred -- i.e., all the other players will go back to having their own autonomy (and thus have shared and significant input), the GM will be able to once again have authority to scene-frame and run NPCs as he sees fit, etc.

As to where I'm struggling -- a couple of things ....
1) I'm not sure I'm fully with you on the relativism issue.  I see where you're coming from, but I think it's apples-and-oranges, and therefore not a fully legitimate comparison -- one is a passive/indirect control, where the other is an active/direct control.  And the reason that this makes a difference is at the point of the player(s) making decisions, and thus a matter of player agency.
2) When you have a group of people all trying to fulfill their own interests (whatever those interests may be), it really helps to have an established center of authority.  Sure, you can say "the rule book and game 'contract' has the authority" and just go from there; however, I see that as a flawed position.  Sure, some groups may be fine with this type of dynamic; however, even these groups will run in to problems when the inanimate authority is silent on an issue.  Also, things get interpreted in different ways by different people; interests conflict; etc.  Simply "talking it out" is many times an inadequate solution, especially when there are varying degrees of assertiveness and/or disparity in communication efficacy.

What am I missing?


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Callan S. on January 18, 2012, 04:32:06 PM
It seems plausible he was trying to maintain some sort of control he had in the other group. What's he done in game since those two player from his other group have left, or have you not played with him since then?

Quote
1) I'm not sure I'm fully with you on the relativism issue.  I see where you're coming from, but I think it's apples-and-oranges, and therefore not a fully legitimate comparison -- one is a passive/indirect control, where the other is an active/direct control.  And the reason that this makes a difference is at the point of the player(s) making decisions, and thus a matter of player agency.
I can't really see it that way - when you wack them with a rolled up newspaper when they do X, it's training them not to do X anymore.

Quote
Sure, some groups may be fine with this type of dynamic; however, even these groups will run in to problems when the inanimate authority is silent on an issue.
Ie, the text only gives an incomplete procedure.
Quote
Also, things get interpreted in different ways by different people; interests conflict; etc.
And poor technical writing by the author.

The authority (and the extent of it) is only 'required' because of these failures of design. If you like having that authority, fair enough. But if you don't really want to take up that authority position (or want a position with less authority), there is nothing forcing you to take up an authority position except for a procedure that hasn't been completed and poor technical writing not corrected. Again, if you like the authority position, fair enough. But it's not like your forced into that and don't have a choice about it.

Anyway, that's getting onto another subject and the usual pattern here is to keep threads on one subject and to cover new subjects in new threads (with a link from each thread to each other, which connects them kinda anyway). So I wont go on about it unless a new thread turns up on the subject.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Double_J on January 18, 2012, 11:46:55 PM
We haven't played since .... or shall I say, i haven't played since.
Some of the other guys have played, with Fred as GM .... They don't seem to get chafed as bad as I do (that's largely an issue of personalities).
We have, however, gotten together a few times.  In those times, there has definitely been some tension -- to the point that others have noticed.  To be fair, I think that the main issue is that both of us are extremely opinionated and bull-headed to a fault; and when those opinions go perpendicular, well .....

"Training":
There is a decided difference between encouraging/discouraging behavior and hard-coding rules of behavior; and the difference lies in the basic underlying psychology ....
 -- hard-coding, i.e. "here's the law -- that's the way it's going to be", tends to rub people the wrong way -- especially the "independently-minded".  When faced with the fact that they have no choice in the matter, there are no few people who's natural instinct is to rebel against it, even if that hard-coding is the way they would do things anyway if left to their own devices (I would know; I've seen myself do it).
 -- simply encouraging/discouraging a particular behavior (through whatever means) still leaves open the capacity of choice.  Fair-minded and beneficent individuals, when shown what the expectations of "good" are, are more inclined to "go with the flow", so to speak, than if you had just "laid down the law".  Once you have that level of buy-in, then it's a lot easier to get someone to self-police their behavior. The reason for this is that they have been given the free will of their own choice in the matter (regardless of how they came to it).
In a perfect world, I would get that buy-in before game start, so that I don't have to play whack-a-mole through the game.  (see how I tied that back to the thread title there?) ;-)

"Procedure that hasn't been completed and poor technical writing":
Where does one draw the line between "bad procedure/writing", and inadequate reading comprehension and/or lack of contextual understanding?  Who determines that?  Presumably the procedure should designate someone to do that; however, we live in an age of fragile egos (thank you very much Dr. Spock), and thus is not always so easy as simply pointing to that said procedure and expecting compliance.  It's not necessarily an issue of "design failure".
As far as I can tell, I oftentimes found myself (wrongly) relinquishing authority in the interest of avoiding conflict for the sake of maintaining the (dysfunctional) integrity of the group.  Which was actually counter-productive to resolving the dysfunctionality.


BTW -- I don't think that we're straying too far ... just as long we keep things within the context of the thread title .


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Callan S. on January 19, 2012, 04:45:43 PM
Hi Jason,

I think that 'go with the flow', to a certain goal, is poison. With a certain goal of play, the way the different players (the different authors) at the table conflict with each other and do not go with each others flow is a rich seam of creativity driven by cultural dissonance. Granted with a traditional ruleset (ie, the ones I describe as having broken procedure and poor technical writing) it's difficult or impossible to do this, because you will conflict over the very structure of interaction itself, which is a waste of time. Thus it seems getting everyone to go with one flow is the only right way to roleplay.

Quote
Where does one draw the line between "bad procedure/writing", and inadequate reading comprehension and/or lack of contextual understanding?  Who determines that?
Everyone as an individual does. Whether they read the rule set first and if they think it's vague, they don't play. Or they don't read it, but in play find play does not match their understanding of the written rules when they check, and they cease to play at some point, probably after the session ends, to be polite. Of course, the people who do that have mostly left roleplaying as a hobby and those who remain are mostly rule set apathetic, who ignore making a discriminating choice on ruleset and instead make emotional appeals directly to whoever seems to be controlling things. Granted, given a bulk of ruleset apathetics, yeah, even if you wrote a complete procedure with good technical writing, they'd still be apathetic so there'd seem to be no point to doing so. But that's kind of a vicious cycle that keeps the ruleset discriminators out of the hobby.


Title: Re: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play
Post by: Motipha on February 08, 2012, 08:47:49 AM
One trend I've noticed is "character-centric" design/theme/narrative.  I could go on quite a rant here; but I'll just leave it at that I am partial to a more "traditional" plot-centric model that is reinforced by the setting, and the characters explore/interact with plot through the setting.

Sounds like the original concern of this thread has been resolved, being your problems with this Fred fellow.  A few thoughts though (with the caveat that none of this is meant in a judgemental way, but rather as a critical analysis):

First and foremost, the quote taken from above makes me suspect that you've mischaracterised both Fred and yourself in saying that you are interested in a Narrativist Creative Agenda.  My understanding is not the best, but a primary focus of narrativist play (and part of the reason why the moniker "Story Now!" is used to describe that agenda with greater specificity) is the idea that plot, them and narrative emerges from the actions of the character, rather than being a thing that is presented to them to explore.  What you describe sounds a great deal more like Simulationist ("Right To Dream") plot exploration. And your friend Fred seems to prefer a heavily Gamist ("Step On Up") Creative Agenda.  Both can be satisfying ways to play, but they're very different from Story Now.  In your own way, you can be a very demanding DM: Your players need to prioritise the plot that YOU think is interesting, otherwise the game goes nowhere.

But it's a very different type of demanding than that of Fred.  The description you provide does seem to suggest that there was a lot of bad going on at the social level that was being played out in the fiction:  Fred has an undeniable need to be in control at all times, you had two players at the table that were showing little to no personal agency, and you had a need to "make this work" that was driving a lot of the conflict beyond just the differences in opinion in what the game was about.  Without directly addressing those issues, even before talking about CA you were pretty doomed to fail.  And frankly, it sounds like Fred was too invested in "My way is right" to be willing to give it up.  I cannot imagine playing with anyone who is that dismissive of the other players.  You're friendship is much better off with the two of you not playing together.