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Author Topic: Creating a Community  (Read 6191 times)
Reithan
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« on: January 17, 2008, 02:28:13 PM »

I think I may have created a topic a long time ago about this, but I going to avoid thread necromancy, and, in my mind at least, I know have a slightly different drive to the questions.

Here goes:

I want to create a real feel of 'community' in a game I'm running. So far I've statted out many NPCs, tried to give each NPC a distinct personality and goals and alliances and enemies...but my cast of characters, when playing the game with my players, still seem/play/feel like disconnected points of interest.

How do I tie this all together and make it feel more like the players are part of this community?
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Charlie Gilb
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2008, 02:49:42 PM »

Is your community inter-connected at all? Does each NPC ever deal with other NPC's the players have met? Mostimportantly, are their individual alliances and enemies ever demonstrated to the characters?

In short, you can spend all the time you want statting out and devloping NPC's, but if the players never see them interact with each other then there will never really be a sense of community.

Could you provide an actual play example, or the material that you've been working on specifically? How exactly do your player's react?
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Reithan
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2008, 04:17:06 PM »

Is your community inter-connected at all?
Yes. I've had NPCs working together on common goals, playing the characters off each other to thwart their rivals, having arguments against each other, etc. They are often seen in small groups, solo, and once or twice even in large groups, they are shown to have 'talked to each other' while the PCs were not there, as in shared information.
Does each NPC ever deal with other NPC's the players have met?
Yes, as above.
Most importantly, are their individual alliances and enemies ever demonstrated to the characters?
Yes, as above.

As for actual play examples, at one point the herald to the player cabal (NPC) was abducted during a raid on the player's enemies' sanctum (which most of the higher-ranked NPCs participated in) and the players tracked him down to a certain location. They had bigger fish to fry though, and simply reported the location to their higher-ups. Those NPCs staged a raid on that location while the players were taking care of another issue and found the heral dead, and were almost killed themselves, in an ambush. The players met back up with them as they had just returned and were tending to the wounds of one of theirs while he was complaining about his wounds, at length.

Previously to that, the players met with that NPC to discuss the absence of the herald with that NPC at that NPC's sanctum surrounded by the rest of his personal cabal.

I'm not sure how to characterize the player's reactions - could you possibly break that down into more specific questions?
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Caldis
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2008, 05:02:19 PM »


A big question I'd ask is how are the player related to the community?  Do they have family members, friends, lovers, occuptations, responsibilities, or are your characters mysterious strangers who've wandered into town?  If they are strangers I think it becomes much harder to get a feeling of community.  What you really want is something in the town that the players are invested in and that's harder to get if this isnt their town just a town.
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Filip Luszczyk
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2008, 05:53:58 PM »

How prolonged is a typical instance of social interaction between the PCs and your NPCs?

There is this shared information thing going on, but does it happens often that the PCs interact with more than one NPC at the same time? If so, are your NPCs generally acting as a group, or do they have conflicted opinions or the like?

Does it often happen that an NPC casually approaches one or more of the PCs in order to talk about another NPC? Not necessarily in terms of allies/enemies and personal goals, but rather to talk about him or her as a person? I mean, even stuff like "Man, I'm so tired. I hardly slept last night. Bob was snoring so loud, and the walls are so thin..." or "Yuck, I so hate cooked gelatinous cube. I have no idea how Bob can munch it all the time!" or whatever?

I'd say, if you want to have *a sense* of community, it doesn't really matter who the NPCs are and how much is going on between them, if their personal relations don't come up regularly.

Finally, an important thing - you say it feels like disconnected points, but what is the opinions of your players on this matter? Also, are they interested, as a group, in there being a sense of community in the game in the first place and ready to work actively to build it?
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Reithan
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2008, 07:21:17 PM »

A big question I'd ask is how are the player related to the community?  Do they have family members, friends, lovers, occuptations, responsibilities, or are your characters mysterious strangers who've wandered into town?  If they are strangers I think it becomes much harder to get a feeling of community.  What you really want is something in the town that the players are invested in and that's harder to get if this isnt their town just a town.
The characters have had a few fleeting responsibilities, one of the characters that just died secured an official position with the NPCs. A couple of the characters have 1-2 friends in the NPCs. Past that the players seem to shy away from really getting too involved with the NPCs, like they're afraid of what might happen if they let their guard down and become friendly with them.
They took this so far as to actually live outside the town for a while. They've recently moved back in, though.

How prolonged is a typical instance of social interaction between the PCs and your NPCs?
Realtime-wise? Or In-game?
Realtime varies, but in-game-wise the PCs seem to only be interested in interacting with the NPCs on an as-necessary basis. They come in, find out what they have to find out, deal with who they need to and generally retreat.

There is this shared information thing going on, but does it happens often that the PCs interact with more than one NPC at the same time? If so, are your NPCs generally acting as a group, or do they have conflicted opinions or the like?
It varies. Sometimes they'll interact with only 1 NPC, usually it's 2-3 NPCs at a time, though not always the same NPC groups. Once in a while, they'll interact with a bigger group. Both dynamics have been represented in the NPCs. I've had groups of NPCs at odds with each other, helping each other, friendly with each other, helping each other out of necessity, etc.

Does it often happen that an NPC casually approaches one or more of the PCs in order to talk about another NPC? Not necessarily in terms of allies/enemies and personal goals, but rather to talk about him or her as a person? I mean, even stuff like "Man, I'm so tired. I hardly slept last night. Bob was snoring so loud, and the walls are so thin..." or "Yuck, I so hate cooked gelatinous cube. I have no idea how Bob can munch it all the time!" or whatever?
They have once or twice, but the PC's don't seem interested in giving the NPCs a chance for that.

Finally, an important thing - you say it feels like disconnected points, but what is the opinions of your players on this matter? Also, are they interested, as a group, in there being a sense of community in the game in the first place and ready to work actively to build it?
They feel like their characters are there, the NPCs are there, and the 2 directly effect each other, and that there is 'something going on' there...but they don't feel very 'invested in the game' - though, they also don't see this as a huge issue, because they RP with each other and find that to be fairly fun.

I dunno, I guess it's just me trying to 'kick it up a notch'.
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Caldis
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2008, 07:11:36 AM »


I'm seeing a big disconnect between your stated goal and any actions on the part of the players to realizing that goal.  In big model terms it looks like you are worried about certain aspects of color related to setting while they aren't all that interested and are looking to deal with situation and ignoring that color.

You might just be stuck in a typical rut where they feel it's them against the world and the town is a part of the world not a part of them.  I wonder about character creation, how did they make their characters (I guess knowing what system you are using would help here)?  Did you involve them in creating the town at all, connecting them to NPC's, fitting their backgrounds into the town?  Do the characters have real lives or are they "adventurers"?  Are they all originally from this town or are they wanderers who stopped by to take jobs in the town?

If your characters didnt start off connected to the town then it may just be a matter of time.  They may slowly develop connections with things that are going on but at this point they may also be expecting that once they solve the problems going on here they will move on to bigger and better things, a new town with it's own people and problems, so why bother getting invested here.

One thing I noticed that may be causing some problems is the talk of superiors.  This may just be my opinion and their may be ways around it but by having others there that are responsible for the situation then the players dont take that responsibility on themselves.  If some NPC is in charge of defending the town and all he does is give the pc's orders on how they can help out then that mission is all they worry about.  If on the other hand the pc's are in charge of defending the town and have to make decisions on how to do it then they will become invested in the town and it's survival.

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Reithan
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2008, 08:44:38 AM »

I'm seeing a big disconnect between your stated goal and any actions on the part of the players to realizing that goal.  In big model terms it looks like you are worried about certain aspects of color related to setting while they aren't all that interested and are looking to deal with situation and ignoring that color.
I did consider this, and asked the players, and they do seem to be interested in this aspect of the setting/color...however, they seem to feel it's something that's my responsibility.

You might just be stuck in a typical rut where they feel it's them against the world and the town is a part of the world not a part of them.  I wonder about character creation, how did they make their characters (I guess knowing what system you are using would help here)?  Did you involve them in creating the town at all, connecting them to NPC's, fitting their backgrounds into the town?  Do the characters have real lives or are they "adventurers"?  Are they all originally from this town or are they wanderers who stopped by to take jobs in the town?
I do feel, at times, like I'm in that rut.
The system in question is White-Wolf's World of Darkness: Mage: the Awakening.
They made their character mostly by the book, but I re-order the steps a little as a houserule, to place more emphasis on developing characters' backstories.
Now that you mention it, I hadn't thought of it, but most of the character's background were created outside of the town, and then their characters 'relocated' there.
I've been trying to push the characters to develop 'real-lives' as the players seem to enjoy that, and it's something I'd like to see with the game, but it seems like anytime something bad or dangerous happens in-game, the characters suddenly sever all ties and draw back into their shell.

If your characters didnt start off connected to the town then it may just be a matter of time.  They may slowly develop connections with things that are going on but at this point they may also be expecting that once they solve the problems going on here they will move on to bigger and better things, a new town with it's own people and problems, so why bother getting invested here.
There has been no stated or implied (so far) goal or possibility of moving on to a new town. As of right now, the characters are there to stay, and everyone's on-board with that.

One thing I noticed that may be causing some problems is the talk of superiors.  This may just be my opinion and their may be ways around it but by having others there that are responsible for the situation then the players dont take that responsibility on themselves.  If some NPC is in charge of defending the town and all he does is give the pc's orders on how they can help out then that mission is all they worry about.  If on the other hand the pc's are in charge of defending the town and have to make decisions on how to do it then they will become invested in the town and it's survival.
Actually, the current situation is somewhat of the reverse. The characters are the ones responsibly for their area, and generally try to drag their superiors into the action. I've allowed it once or twice when the plot actually warranted it, but as whole, the characters are usually left to their own devices.
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Reithan
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2008, 01:32:31 PM »

Does anyone have any ideas on this? :S
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2008, 02:11:30 PM »

Lots! And so do others, I'm sure. But let the posting come at its own pace. It's a great topic and very thought-provoking. Because of that, replies are going to be a lot slower, rather than faster.

I mean, that's better, right? To get a long-considered reply than a bunch of shallow attention? Usually, when one or two people engage with a thread, the rest of us relax and just read, hopping in only with something especially relevant. I suspect that time is coming soon for this one. So let it happen, and please remember that posting "hey! my thread! post to it!" kind of stuff tends to turn off that productive reflection and response, rather than drawing it.

Best, Ron
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Reithan
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2008, 04:20:55 PM »

Sorry, was just worried it'd fall off the first page and thus be lost to the 'no-posty-zone' before anything was resolved.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2008, 06:01:32 PM »

Yeah, um ... well, here's the thing. If that happens, it's not for you to restore it. That's called "bumping" and it often happens at other forum sites, but you shouldn't do it here. Actually, check out a recent thread in Site Discussion all about this very issue, and you'll see my suggestions for when posting to your own thread, especially after your own post, can be done constructively.

Let's get back to the community discussion now. It's a great topic. I'll weigh in after I manage to catch up on my backlog of threads I want to post to.

Best, Ron
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2008, 04:19:45 AM »

Hey Reithan,

I have had some similar experiences in the past, and I have even noticed the same withdrawing from NPC interactions in my own play on occasion, and I think it has a lot to do with trust.

Take this instance:

Our GM for this game had taken great pains to ensure we all created characters that fit in with the tribal community that served as the backdrop of our game, (Gloranthan HeroQuest) and the character creation system also supports this community focus. However, due to the player's character preferences and the initial direction of the campaign the sense of community investment was lost quite quickly.

So the GM asked us all for details of who we considered parent figures in our community. A simple request but one that rang alarm bells in my head, and I think in the heads of a few of my fellow players. The reason for this alarm was purely due to the fear that the GM was just trying to gain some kind of leverage or angle against all of us as a group by using back-story. This reflex is based on years of playing the kind of game where close relationships are basically of two types, character owned resources or contacts, which are relied upon by the player and the GM as sources of information, and quick scenario hooks which drive the game towards a fairly linear adventure i.e. your brother has been kidnapped by the clan next door.

Now in this instance the GM had nothing of the kind in mind, and purely wanted to introduce an elderly and slightly strange NPC that had a good memory of all of our characters lives and those of their parents. It was partly colour, partly an introduction to a new resource, and mainly a reminder that we had all lived here for most of our lives and we had connections with them regardless of our disparate characters. But, the fact that I had this reaction indicates a suspicion on my part as to the GMs intentions, which was born out of many years of adventurous-party play which had nothing to do with such issues.

Interestingly, I cant see many other ways for the GM to calm these reactions apart from demonstration. The kind of assurances I would need would be purely based on how such situations were used by the GM in the long term. You could lay down some rules over how such things are handled but the real test would be if these rules were adhered to.

So my best suggestion is to discuss the issues from the angle of trust and player investment, and discuss the kinds of situations that could arise if the PCs did become close to NPCs with an eye to who would be in control in those situations.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2008, 05:40:28 AM »

Short answer:  Give different NPCs different levels of involvement in the community.  An asocial hermit does as much to make the structure of a community dramatically explicit as does the totally connected mover/shaker.

Long answer:  I have a friend who was in Peace Corps, and she related to me another corps-member's strategy for coming into a new place and immediately finding the person most intimately connected throughout the whole community:  Ask for something impossible.  "I want a light-purifying system from the school, so our light doesn't get so dirty ... who would I talk to about that?"  Apparently (I get second-hand) this strategy would consistenty have whole communities pointing at one guy in their midst, saying "Oh, go see Mbeke ... he'll be able to help you out," and that guy (often of low social status) turned out to be the most central member of the whole social network.  Isn't that neat?

My intuition is that simulating some of that feeling ... the idea that there are people who act as lynchpins to the whole social structure, would both make it easier to present the community in a sane amount of time and effort and would make the community seem more real and convincing.

Great topic!
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Reithan
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« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2008, 10:29:06 AM »

Web: I do think a lot of their reluctance may have to do with trust. They sort of seem to expect a certain adversarily relationship with their GM/DM/ST.

That begin said, I try to remain fair and objective and just present events and stories that will be compelling, not ones designed to "test the characters." However, this being a horror-themed setting a lof of these encounters do "test the characters" anyway. I mean, it is the "World of Darkness" not the world of friends and ponies.

Tony: For the short answer, I think I do somewhat have this set up already. I mean, there are NPCs in varying degrees of political power, NPCs with varying degrees of actual competance, and many varied personalities and drives among those NPCs.

I like the insight in your Long Answer, but I'm not sure how I could use that outside of just giving that tip to my players and subsequently exploiting it.

I think what you're trying to say is the create a sort of "community liason" NPC. There has been this NPC at times, in the player's herald NPC - however he was killed and has yet to be successfully replaced (one of the players killed his successor [another player] in a duel). So - this position may be filled again in the future, but for very in-character reasons the position's beginning to be looked on as somewhat 'cursed.'
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