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Author Topic: Creating a Community  (Read 6221 times)
Reithan
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« Reply #30 on: January 24, 2008, 09:50:28 AM »

I understand your frustration and know it from first hand experience, but I think we can only do one of two things in this thread: Explain the Big Model, or talk about strategies to improve your play experience. Both at the same time simply will not work out.
Agreed, in that we can't do both at once, though, imo, we can still do both in this thread - just not simultaneously.

I think your players right now don’t see it as their job to actively work towards the stated goal (“drama”), but rather, they just play their characters like “these guys would act”, and how “these guys would act” is most likely to stay out of trouble. The players are doing all of this without reflecting much about it, because it’s how they learned it and how they think it has to be. This is what you need to make clear to them, without offending them.
Agreed.

You can only get to the “drama” if they start keeping “drama” as a goal in the back of their heads, and start thinking about how what their characters do helps or hinders “drama” to happen. However, you can only ask that of them if you also convince them that you, as well, are working towards the goal to create “drama” (as opposed to, say, “spoiling their plans.”) If they have some concerns about this, based on past experiences, then you need to accept these concerns as valid and work that out. You are requesting them to change how they play, so it’s only fair that they may ask as much of you.
Hmmm, I think an easy way to possibly 'ease into' that would be to have them start focusing more on their characters' "Vice & Virtue". In the system we're playing (Mage: the Awakening), each character, at creation is assigned a "Vice" and a "Virtue". These are thematic to the character as to what good qualities the character has, and what bad qualities they have. I think a good way for them to start focusing on drama as a goal would be to start trying to push harder at their character's themes here. For example, a character with "Justice" as a virtue may not always do the 'safe' or 'easy' thing, if he thinks he can right some wrong. Or a character with "Hope" or "Faith" as a virtue may similarly break from the strategic mold for his beliefs.

In the same way a character with "Sloth" as a vice simply may not decide to put out the effort necessary to comply with 'best practices' and a character espousing "Wrath" may not always take the safe path when his temper gets the better of him.

What do you think of that Technique? (I think this would fall under Technique - correct me if I'm using the wrong term)

Also, I suggest you tell them up front what your goals were in creating that set-up of NPCs. Invite them to request any NPC they would like to see in the community. Get as much of their input as you can, and be sure to use it! Also, be sure to listen to the good advice in this thread with regard to specific GMing Techniques you can use.
I could be more transparent about this, but I generally do. If they want to find a certain NPC and I don't have one for it - I'll usually oblige. Perhaps I should bring this to their attention and get some discussion of this.

And the crucial part is: Continue to talk about it while you play. If you don’t, you’ll fall back into old patterns all too easily. Specifically, all of you state up front their intentions, whenever they're not obvious. Not the character’s intention, the player’s intention! If a scene is just about getting to know an NPC, then the players might as well know it, so they don’t feel inclined to question him for some kind of plot-relevant information they think you want to reveal to them. If the player wants to force a certain conflict, then you might as well know so you can work with him instead of unintentionally spoiling it. And so forth.
Hmm, I somewhat disagree on this one. I don't mind talking about overal play goals, agreed-upon introduction of player-driven NPCs and the like, but I also don't want to hand-feed every scene to them. If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front. To me, that sort of kills the drama. It's hard to find the middle of a story interesting when you already know the end.

Does that make sense?
Did I start this closing in this thread? I have I just picked up a theme that was already present? lol
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #31 on: January 24, 2008, 10:22:38 AM »

I think I’m posting too quickly right now, so I’ll back off for a while to let others chime in. However, one quick clarification:

Quote
If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front.

That’s not what I wanted to suggest. I’m not suggesting you state whatever you want to be the outcome of a given scene. That would indeed be boring. I rather suggest that you be clear about the general agenda. An audience with the hierarch is an audience with the hierarch, that’s already pretty clear. But have you ever seen this happen in a RPG:

Player: “I go to Clara’s place.”
GM: “Okay.”
Player: “Who’s there?”
GM: “Let’s see, there should be Clara, her husband, and the kids.”
Player: “Oh, okay, I leave again.”
GM: “Anything else this evening?”

Instead (and maybe that’s a no-brainer to you), I suggest the scene should go something like this:

Player: “I think I’d like to develop a romantic interest in Clara. I want to talk to her, alone. I go to her place.”
GM: “And of course, just as you enter the drive, you see her husband leave in the car with the kids.”
Player: “Cool! I stand in the door for half a minute before I can make myself ring the bell.”
GM: “…”
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Reithan
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« Reply #32 on: January 24, 2008, 10:33:27 AM »

I see what you're saying, and although I don't think we've every talked about this or put any thought into it, I can honestly say I've never observed this issue in our play. The players usually have fairly obvious and straightforward goals when they request a scene, and I'm usually fairly straightforward when framing my own scenes.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #33 on: January 24, 2008, 12:31:44 PM »

Hey,

This moved a bit quickly for me. I'd like to go back to the "ambushed while out of sight" and "walking out into a battle to act as bait, without discussing this plan with the others" character deaths if I might, because I think it bears on the character significance issue, and on my advice that you treat the characters "like everyone in the community unconsciously knows they're significant".

I think even a "you might die" warning probably wasn't enough that you didn't still actually handle things in a way that worked against your goal of having the characters integrated in the community. And here's why. For the game to be about community the way you want it to, you need to have made a decision as a group that that's what you want, characters who are significant to a community. And if you have, then you want the player to manage his character with the presumption of that significance. Think about the character who walked out into the courtyard to act as bait. That's totally badass. The player had a warning. He chose to allow his character to maybe die. So even if he dies you have to come through with the community significance or you haven't held up your end of the bargain. Remember, you already agreed with the players that the game is about exploring significance within the community. So cripes, have some distraught NPC throw herself onto him as he's bleeding out, at great risk to herself. Then later have her campaigning against the ineffectual guards who did nothing to prevent the senseless slaying of this "community hero". Or have some politician use his death to force a curfew on the community. By not having the community respond as if the character were a significant member of it, you betrayed the agreement. And so the players don't trust in the agreement anymore.

And the character who died "out of sight"...he deserved a significant ending as well.

Years ago in a conversation with Mark Grundy, one of the principals behind the original AmberMUSH, I remarked on the awesome plots that just seemed to emerge from the character play in the MUSH I'd been ghosting in. And he explained to me that experienced MUSH folks secretly message with each other to negotiate the behaviors of their characters. It totally blew my mind. I haven't had the same proscriptive opinion of OOC since.

I think you should work yourselves out of the "without discussing this plan" social dynamic by incorporating OOC conversation.

player: "I want to go out into the courtyard as bait. I think it would be badass."
you: "You might die."
player: "Yeah? Hmm....Still, I want to do it."

And at that point you play it out from the perspective that something significant is happening. Same thing with the character who got ambushed. Discuss it openly. And then let the other players see what's happening. And make it significant. Make it so it celebritizes the character. Don't have him snuffed by a poison dart. Have him assaulted by flurry of thrown knives from a clutch of vile homunculi, who then carve out his liver. If he's significant to the community, his death needs to be a disruption to the community.

Paul
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Reithan
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« Reply #34 on: January 24, 2008, 12:56:52 PM »

So even if he dies you have to come through with the community significance or you haven't held up your end of the bargain. Remember, you already agreed with the players that the game is about exploring significance within the community. So cripes, have some distraught NPC throw herself onto him as he's bleeding out, at great risk to herself. Then later have her campaigning against the ineffectual guards who did nothing to prevent the senseless slaying of this "community hero". Or have some politician use his death to force a curfew on the community. By not having the community respond as if the character were a significant member of it, you betrayed the agreement. And so the players don't trust in the agreement anymore.

And the character who died "out of sight"...he deserved a significant ending as well.

...

And at that point you play it out from the perspective that something significant is happening. Same thing with the character who got ambushed. Discuss it openly. And then let the other players see what's happening. And make it significant. Make it so it celebritizes the character. Don't have him snuffed by a poison dart. Have him assaulted by flurry of thrown knives from a clutch of vile homunculi, who then carve out his liver. If he's significant to the community, his death needs to be a disruption to the community.

Wow. This is a really awesome response. I think this really hits on some stuff that I've been overlooking, though, somehow, inadvertantly becoming better at perhaps, without knowing it?

So far the death-toll in the game is up to 6.
Part of our agreement when beginning to game was that the setting WILL be dangerous. Characters WILL die.

First to die was the one who got ambushed. The characters were being harried by a vampire assassin that was after them for killing off her sire. The character who died had, just before that, really pissed everyone off at him be putting them all in danger by brining a mortal to their sanctum and leading the assassin and her ghouls there, too.
So, they didn't really get behind it as an "OMG! My friend is dead!" event, though they did embrace it as a "How dare that bitch kill one of us!" event.

To that point, that character's death-scene was recorded and posted later for everyone to see, and phrases from it have become common slang for our social group. It was in fact, probably one of the most significant scenes in the game, so far.

The second death was shortly after one of the original cast of characters was revealed to be a plant from the Seers of the Throne (main antagonist group of mages) who was also consorting with old spirits he'd liberated from a sealed atlantean vault. The player group called in the consilium's help and had him murdered in a fairly spectacular manner. As a consequence, the non-allied group they were currently trying to woo to their side became enraged that they would stage such a scene on their property and declared them enemies on the spot - banishing them from their grounds. This fed into a more elaborate story arc then ended with the players decimating that faction's stronghold.

The third was shortly after that and was not significant in any way. One of the players decided he no longer wanted to play his character and wanted to make a new one - so we staged a death scene.

The fourth was the 'bait' scenario. The player who did it had joined the game THAT night, showed little interest in it, really, played in a reckless and sloppy manner with no regard to common sense, character, plot, setting, or ANYTHING really and didn't bother making another character. That said, the death was still significant. It's become a common reference for our group when discussing something as a 'bad idea' and, again, served as a rally-point for the group against a common foe.

The fifth was basically sloppy on my part, we played a session while fairly tired, forgot a lot of things we were doing and the player was generally ready to make a new character so it basically just ended with an enemy using a series of glaring character oversights to pull of a ritual to tear one of the group into peices and that player going, "Sweet I get to make a new character." That being said, this being the second time the group managed to get one of their own killed on consilium grounds, it encited an argument between them and the heirarch, and the characters shot their mouths off in a fairly spectacular manner and got exiled for a month. That, since, has become a bone of contention between them and that specific NPC.

The final and fairly recent fall of a character was from an old dispute between 2 characters. The more agressive of the two challenged the other to a duel, and the challenged mage set up the challenge poorly and lost, not only the stated contest, but his life. This event, so far, I think is the most significant of them, yet. It's cemented a fued between the challenger and the heirarch and also made a public spectacle of both the winning and losing character, who's body was carried away by said heirarch. So far, I think this one will have the biggest lasting impact on the story.

So, I think that last one's ended on a note closer to what you're suggesting, though several in there were just out-of-character based tools to turn over cast members. The first one was arguably the most 'awesome' so far, but it was mainly by accident, whereas the newest one was important maybe even still not so much on purpose, but for a purpose.

I don't know, maybe I'm just rambling.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #35 on: January 24, 2008, 01:31:03 PM »

6 character deaths? In how many sessions? I'm not sure I could render appropriate significance to six individual PC deaths. (Are there even six deaths in The Godfather?)

Okay...one additional piece of advice. There is no magic bullet technique. Just rendering appropriate significance to character deaths isn't going to solve your play issues. The true solution is to change the way you're thinking about your responsibilities as a GM. (And rendering appropriate significance to player character deaths is just one part of that.) Don't ever think it's your job to manage the reality of the world, or "what the NPC would do," or the consequences that should logically come from a character's actions (however "sloppy" they are). Your job is operate at a much higher level than that. Your job is to operate at the social level of collaborative play around a theme. Think first about drama and theme, what should happen that treats the player character as significant and delivers great drama, and then secondarily you figure out how it makes sense (logically, or whatever) for that to happen. If you can get the social dynamic of your group to where everyone is thinking about drama, and everyone trusts that you, the GM, and the rules aren't going to betray dramatic choices by withholding significance from the outcomes, it'll be awesome.

Paul
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Reithan
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« Reply #36 on: January 24, 2008, 01:50:18 PM »

6 character deaths? In how many sessions? I'm not sure I could render appropriate significance to six individual PC deaths. (Are there even six deaths in The Godfather?)
We've been playing for a bit over a year now. We took one small break in the middle and generally play about once every 2 weeks. I think we're somewhere around 36 sessions in? Not counting individualized 'side sessions' I've run with a few characters. If you don't count the "I just wanna swap characters" deaths, then it's only 4, not 6. And if you don't count the person who just came in and basically just TRIED to get killed cuz she wasn't into it, then it's only 3. 3 deaths in almost 40 sessions over the course of over a year of play isn't horrible, imo. Not to mention the plant was pretty much doomed to die from the beginning and was A-okay with that outcome. So, if you don't count that one...then 2. 2 character deaths.

Okay...one additional piece of advice. There is no magic bullet technique. Just rendering appropriate significance to character deaths isn't going to solve your play issues. The true solution is to change the way you're thinking about your responsibilities as a GM. (And rendering appropriate significance to player character deaths is just one part of that.) Don't ever think it's your job to manage the reality of the world, or "what the NPC would do," or the consequences that should logically come from a character's actions (however "sloppy" they are). Your job is operate at a much higher level than that. Your job is to operate at the social level of collaborative play around a theme. Think first about drama and theme, what should happen that treats the player character as significant and delivers great drama, and then secondarily you figure out how it makes sense (logically, or whatever) for that to happen. If you can get the social dynamic of your group to where everyone is thinking about drama, and everyone trusts that you, the GM, and the rules aren't going to betray dramatic choices by withholding significance from the outcomes, it'll be awesome.

I have been thinking more in that direction lately, which is where the stuff such as the recent duel and vendetta came in, as well as a couple other things I hadn't mentioned. Basically, I started looking for sources to draw inspiration from and my best source so far has been "The Dresden Files" which ran on Sci-Fi channel. There's also a book series that was based on I'd love to get my hands on.

I think, though, you'd cleared away a lot of the fog over this idea I've been poking at. Thank you muchly.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #37 on: January 24, 2008, 01:55:43 PM »

You're welcome. Good luck.

Paul
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Reithan
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« Reply #38 on: January 24, 2008, 02:03:42 PM »

I understand your frustration and know it from first hand experience, but I think we can only do one of two things in this thread: Explain the Big Model, or talk about strategies to improve your play experience. Both at the same time simply will not work out.
Agreed, in that we can't do both at once, though, imo, we can still do both in this thread - just not simultaneously.
Well, as we seem to have drawn to a close on the first bit, what about discussing this bit of this now?
Unless there's more open to the first bit I overlooking here - we have seemed to cover a LOT of ground very quickly, so it's likely that I am overlooking something.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #39 on: January 24, 2008, 02:45:53 PM »

Yeah, better give this a little time to sink. Erm, also, what Paul said!

- Frank
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #40 on: January 24, 2008, 04:16:29 PM »

Uh, or let's just spin it off. I was feeling in the mood.
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Balesir
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« Reply #41 on: January 25, 2008, 09:32:15 AM »

Hi,

Sorry to wake up after a long 'snooze', but this caught my eye:

Quote
If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front.

That’s not what I wanted to suggest. I’m not suggesting you state whatever you want to be the outcome of a given scene. That would indeed be boring. I rather suggest that you be clear about the general agenda. An audience with the hierarch is an audience with the hierarch, that’s already pretty clear.

On the other hand, why not explore what happens when you are upfront about this sort of thing?

Just an off-the-wall suggestion, but you could try discussing with the players - out of character - that you are thinking of having a scene where the Hierarch invites them for interview but secretly wants to get them to admit something about his/her rival.  Ask whether they think the characters (who obviously don't want to let anything slip) should let something slip for the purpose of making the game more fun and opening up some plotlines for you to use.

Given the rut that your players are in, this might just jolt them enough to start considering whether the assumptions they have about 'how this is done' are necessarily true...

And I see it as a no-lose situation, for you.  If they decide that, yes, it would be fun to have made a faux pas with the Hierarch (and you can let them decide if the characters realise that's what they have done, too), then you have a lead-in to plenty of future drama.  If they don't then you have de-prioritised the Gamist-inclined goal of thwarting the Hierarch's machinations and let the players see that the NPC is trying to manipulate their characters - and reduced trust between characters can help make plots and drama, too!

Andy
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Andy Gibson
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Reithan
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« Reply #42 on: January 25, 2008, 11:46:39 AM »

I disagree on these grounds

Quote from: W. H. Auden
Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.

Sure, if the characters choose to make that mistake, then indeed it opens the stage for future drama. But by not giving them that information I totally ENSURE drama ensues. Either A. when they are manipulated, or B. when they realize the heirarch is trying to  manipulate them.

Now, on the other hand, if I give them the information and they choose (as I have every inclination to believe they would, based on their history of risk-avoidance) NOT to make that mistake, then no one makes a mistake and no drama is created: The heirarch has made no mistake - he knows he learned nothing. The Players have made no mistakes, they were not manipulated, nor did they experience the drama of discovering manipulation was even a goal. Everyone walks away from the meeting with everything having gone exactly as they thought it did. No drama spawned. :(

Now, at this point, I could FORCE drama, by having the heirarch detain them, interrogate them, or otherwise prove that they were mistaken when they thought he would simply let them get away without his manipulation...but that's basically railroading, IMO.

Also, eeven if we take your suggestion to just let them get away with it and hope that reduced trust will spawn drama - well...no one except the PC's trust was reduced (the heirarch already knows he's a creep) and the PCs probably (based on current actions as well as implied by the scene framing) already don't trust the heirarch. (otherwise, why wouldn't he just ASK for the information?)
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Balesir
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« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2008, 02:41:29 PM »

Hmm, I think a more accurate definition of drama or story (and definitely a more useful one for roleplaying purposes) is that it consists of escalating attempts to meet a dramatic need that is repeatedly blocked.  Now, the blockage may be a 'Mistake' - or better yet several blocks may share a mistake or misconception as a theme - but not all of the blockages need to be mistakes.

However, that was an aside.

Now, on the other hand, if I give them the information and they choose (as I have every inclination to believe they would, based on their history of risk-avoidance) NOT to make that mistake, then no one makes a mistake and no drama is created: The heirarch has made no mistake - he knows he learned nothing. The Players have made no mistakes, they were not manipulated, nor did they experience the drama of discovering manipulation was even a goal. Everyone walks away from the meeting with everything having gone exactly as they thought it did. No drama spawned. :(

Nothing gained - except a graphic illustration that avoiding the mistake was not a meaningful goal for the players.  What I am trying to say is that, if the players are in a rut as has been described (and goodness knows I have seen that phenomenon before!), then a culture shock sort of approach might be what is needed to get the thought processes working.

Not telling the players seems to me to be driving the players just where you don't want them to go.  You want a mistake/misunderstanding for drama - fine.  But by trying to trick the players into making that mistake you are reinforcing their 'avoid slipping up' mentality by making it an adversarial game between the GM and the players.

I may have got the wrong end of the stick, and if so I apologise and you can just ignore me, but it strikes me that if you draw the players more into the setting up of the drama rather than trying to set it up by fooling them they might see having their characters walk into situations as a fun option rather than as a result of a screw up on their part.

Andy
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Reithan
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« Reply #44 on: January 25, 2008, 03:07:17 PM »

Hmm, I think a more accurate definition of drama or story (and definitely a more useful one for roleplaying purposes) is that it consists of escalating attempts to meet a dramatic need that is repeatedly blocked.  Now, the blockage may be a 'Mistake' - or better yet several blocks may share a mistake or misconception as a theme - but not all of the blockages need to be mistakes.
To me, that sounds more like 'Suspense' than 'Drama'.

Anywho, I see what you're saying, and I may indeed try it, but it seems to me it has just as many possible problems as the current approach, thus not really being 'better', but just 'different', though probably not any 'worse' either.

That being said, maybe something different is all I really need to shake things up a bit, I'll have to think on it a bit.
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