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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13298 Members Latest Member: - Nicholas Mizer Most online today: 36 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Players Against Player Authorship  (Read 6226 times)
Mason
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Posts: 18


« on: February 14, 2008, 02:24:56 AM »

I recently wrapped up a short-term D&D 3.5/Arcana Evolved campaign that I ran every other weekend for four or five of my long-time players.  ("Long time" meaning the new guy in the group has been around for about two years, everyone else goes back about a decade.)  The game was fairly typical for our group; crunch-heavy, rp-lite, a lot of camaraderie at the table.  The part that I found frustrating was, this being the first on-going game I had run in about two years-- during which time I had been reading a lot of indie game material-- I was hoping to integrate some player authorship of things that traditionally my group had considered the purview of the GM.  Specifically, I was hoping that the players would suggest plot hooks, npcs, relationships and other things that I as the GM would work into the storyline. 

The group had gotten together to play both PrimeTime Adventures and Universalis and the general consensus was that while these were fun storytelling exercises, they didn't consider them "games".  Hoping to get the players to buy into some player authorship in a more traditional game, I decided that in addition to the Fortune Points that we used (ala Hero Points from Arcana Evolved, or Action Points from Eberron) I'd add in Fate Points which were a limited resource the players could use to define something about the game world.  I thought they'd be more comfortable if there was some sort of mechanical component to it.  (I considered tying in a PTA fan mail ecosystem to Fate Points, but at the beginning I was more about taking baby steps.)

Play began on this mini-campaign we called Pirates of the Sunless Sea.  Underdark pirates.  In addition to Fate and Fortune Points we also used something called Swash Cards which was another limited resource that let the characters do cool stuff.  Basically, we were doing everything we could to make D&D a swashbuckling system, which is a little like turning an AMC Pacer into an Indy car, but my group places a high value on system familiarity.  Mechanically, the system worked well within the limits we had set for it.

The problem was that the players weren't interested in any sort of player authorship.  I would say their attitudes ran the gamut from apathetic to mildly offended.  I had found a good example of player input in a game in a forum post, and I sent it to my players.  One of my players (the lone voice interested in player input) brought up a game called Donjon in which he explained the GM ran the dungeon but the players had some story control, and that was likewise met with resistance. 

My group is mostly GMs, and the other GMs in the group didn't want any part of player authorship.  As players they were resentful of the GM asking them to think of stuff when they weren't "on the clock", and as GMs they didn't want to have to deal with player input.  In the play report I sent out, the player input was limited to a set number of points and was also completely subject to GM fiat, but the feeling they expressed to me was that even with those "safeguards" in place, players suggesting plot elements would wreck the GM's carefully prepared story lines.  (The point I found particularly surprising, since my group looks down on both railroading and illusionism.)

I could respect that other GMs didn't want to include these elements in their games.  GMing is a thankless enough task (actually, we thank each other a lot but thatís not really the point I'm making here) and I wasn't trying to get anyone to adopt a running style they weren't interested in.  But it was a style I was interested in and I wanted to include it and I saw it as nothing but positives for the players.  They weren't forced to come up with anything but they had the option.  I think games really come alive at the point where the whole group is bouncing ideas off one another, when everyone at the table (or, at any rate, most of the people) are contributing.  And I enjoy the improvisational aspects of GMing, when games go in unexpected directions.

We played the first few sessions and things started out okay.  Not great, but okay.  I understand that my group needs to ease into a game.  We started off at a relatively low level and decided that if anything, The Pirates of the Sunless Sea cries out for a more over-the-top style so we jumped up to mid-levels and leveled pretty quickly after that.  The problem for me was that other than what I was providing, there was no developing story.  I had the usual stuff, plots and intrigue, but for the players these were really only Combat Delivery Systems.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I do remember games when the story was important, where the story really determined what combats you were getting into.  Characters wanted to do things and a by-product of that was conflict.  It seems like my group had gradually become more about the conflict, and less about how we got to it. 

In a forum discussion, one of my players expressed to me that one of the stumbling blocks he was having was that as a player, he couldn't come up with ideas for areas of the game that were previously undefined.  It wasn't so much that he was against player input, its that he wasn't having any ideas. If it was a part of the game I had defined as the GM, he didn't want to interfere with it (despite my requests for anyone to interfere with anything).  If it wasn't something I had defined, it was just a big, grey blob.  He felt more comfortable with how our group traditionally came up with player input:  The GM runs the game and defines the game world.  The players define their characters.  At some point, usually after many months of play, the players will get a good enough idea about the game world to pick the stuff they like and focus on that. And then at that point, the players start becoming proactive and defining what they want their characters to accomplish.  (Granted, this is the ITBB mixed in with the GM as a autocratic figure right up until the point when due to some unspoken, instinctually understood thing, the players take over the reigns.) 

I found that less than encouraging.  I really didn't have much interest in running a game for several months and coming up with all the necessary material to keep the players entertained in the hope that one day they might seize upon one idea and run with it.  As processes go, it seemed a little like setting up metal poles and hoping lightning would strike when we had wall outlets and extension cords in the house (if that metaphor makes any sense). 

The Swashcards included some that could alter things about the game.  One made an NPC fall in love with a PC, one destroyed an NPC organization, out of 30 or so there were 5 or 6 that were pretty dramatic from a story perspective.  (Most were mechanical in nature: free movement, a free crit, healing or the like.)  Another GM had seen these when he used them in his game and removed them.  I put them back in for my game (at least in the beginning, but I think since we were trading the cards back and forth for the various games those got lost) but they never came up.  Granted, the cards were a pretty haphazard way of getting the players to exercise story control, but I was willing to try anything. 

It was during this time that one of my players stopped running his D&D campaign because it had become evident that the players and the GM were playing in at least two separate games (it might have been 3, of you count one player who was completely off on his own, we saw his cohort every so often) and weren't all that interested in getting them back together.  I would say that's how most of the group's games end, they fizzle out a few sessions after no one cares. 

That's roughly how Pirates of the Sunless Sea ended.  The player who had suggested Donjon and got us to play Universalis quit the group after getting frustrated with the traditional style and reluctance to change.  I ran eight or ten more sessions of set-piece battles and then called it.  Now I'm running SR4 for the group.  Shadowrun has always been my favorite system, and we're gradually learning the new edition.  Itís possible thatís a better fit for my group, a game where the players are supposed to improvise wildly within strictly defined limits.

But the Pirates game did leave me a little frustrated and a little bitter (if this 1500 word screed is any indication).  Ultimately, though the sessions were fun I felt the game was a failed experiment.  I did get one of the players who was most resistant to player input to spend a Fate Point (he made a portrait the party found look like him) so maybe that was a minor victory.  (His idea was for his character to be a reincarnation of an ancient svirfneblin king, which perhaps with some sodium pentathol I might have figured out in time for it to matter.)  Thatís probably more frustrating than if heíd simply been uninterested in player input; I mean he was apparently coming up with character and story ideas and still didnít feel like he should pipe up at the session or in email later. 

This post is longer than I intended, which is probably a sign this has been bugging me more than I realized.  Currently, I'm more interested in thinking about the games I'm either not running or will never run, rather than prepping the SR4 game I am running.  (I've actually prepped stuff for the Pirates game, should it ever come back up.)  I'm assuming this is because I'm frustrated running for my group and would rather focus on games I probably won't have to run.  This is a cycle I've been in for awhile, prepping games right up to the point I would normally start running them and then abandoning the concept to work on the next thing. 
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Lord_Steelhand
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2008, 08:30:15 AM »

If you are frustrated to the level it sounds like, go play Dunjon with the other player who seems to share your goals.

I have also been struggling of late with play that is just driving me up a wall creatively (and, yes, it is a D20 group), so I empathize.  It is hard to find a good group, but I have noticed that newer game designs require (and, indeed, thrive) with smaller groups.

Now if I can get one of my pals to run his Sci-Fantasy game using Dunjon...THAT would rock!
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Judd M. Goswick
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2008, 09:57:02 AM »

Hi Mason,

My take on GNS is that a person's play preferences map to their learning preferences. That is, someone with a narrativist play preference believes that there's something important to learn from how others organize and make meaning (theme) from their beliefs and experiences (by authoring). Someone with a simulationist play preference believes that he has something to learn about himself (and about the way the world and society work) by testing his problem solving, relationship skills, decisionmaking, values, etc., in the lab environment of a reality that operates by the same rules as the one we live in. And someone with a gamist play preference believes she has something to learn about herself (her status, the significance of her abilities and accomplishments) by testing her skills, problem solving, decisionmaking, etc., against the motivated efforts of others.

Of course it's not so cut-and-dried as all that, because most people see at least some value in all three social structures for learning, and so they'll play different flavors of GNS. And I think your group is probably like this. They're GMs, so they're totally cool with the "teaching" role that's part of narrativist play, because they've done it as GMs. And they've played PtA and Universalis. But they've said PtA and Universalis don't feel like games...which I read as PtA and Universalis not satisfying their desire for self-knowledge from the "lab environment". (Universalis is pretty competitive, so I'm not thinking the "not games" assessment is them voicing the desire for self-knowledge from competition.)

And what you're asking them to do in your D&D game is "suggest plot hooks, npcs, relationships and other things" that you would work into the storyline. So, you're asking them to have something to say, in the most authorial and thematic sense of the word. And what they want is the chance to chance to learn (not teach).

Yet when they run games they don't want the intrusion of player contributions into what they're trying to teach. When they want to teach, they want to teach. And when they want to learn, they want to learn. Whereas narrativist games ask players to open themselves and participate in an environment where teaching and learning is more fluid.

Part of me wants to suggest that you enjoy what you have. It seems like you have a group that's engaged in play, likes to teach and to learn (but likes the teaching/learning roles cut and dried) and that likes to try new stuff. But I do feel your frustration. You want the collaboration, the give-and-take.

Perhaps it would be enough to tell them that when they have something to say (as above), that you want to hear their suggested NPCs, etc. Or maybe you create a structure where they offer suggestions for each other's characters, which they might not see as too problematic a violation of their learner roles. Maybe send each player out of the room in turn, and have a conversation with the others about NPCs and plot hooks and whatnot that would be cool for the missing player.

Paul
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Valvorik
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Posts: 114


« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2008, 01:13:58 PM »

First, "combat delivery system", never saw that before, quick google didn't turn it up but great turn of phrase!

The swashbuckler cards ~ if you're using the ones based on an enworld post long long ago, downloadable at scratch factory, then I can empathize.  Claim I can't substantiate (though I could get witnesses) - I came up with the first draft of them and the flavour text on many is still what I wrote.  Mine were the more story ones like Ah Love etc.  My players almost completely passed on making story use of them.  Only wanted to trade them in for rerolls etc. for mechanical purposes.

I have found getting my long-time D&D group to try newer games or accept more player authorship very hard.  It's most been successful via introducing more conflict resolution fast play techniques that "open up" what player can imagine character achieving and that leading to interesting suggestions of what player is doing that in turn carry implications about world.

I too have had to learn to enjoy what I have.  A long time group of friends accepting of each other's foibles who make a real effort to show up for game night and have fun thumping monsters with some story along the way.  They kinda game for the reason Dresden does at the end of "Summer Knight" book in the series.

Rob
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Mason
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2008, 06:56:06 PM »

Yep, those are the Swashcards we were using.  The ones you mention, the "plot cards" were the ones that most excited me as a GM, simply because they were wrecking balls when it came to my established storylines.  Granted, I love the storylines I establish, but I love more the charge I get from the improvisation when the game moves in unexpected directions, when the group really starts to create something together and all synapses are firing. 

The other GMs I play with are less excited about the prospect of having their established plots wrecking-balled, and as players they reflexively avoid doing things that they perceive would make things "difficult" for the GM  (even as I am actively advocating for them to do those things). 

Another issue I am just starting to wrap my head around is that in the course of the decade or so I've played in this group, we've become strongly gamist, and this is due as much to practical matters as it is to theoretical ones.  When we started playing together, it was during those aimless years after high school but before real life began, when our responsibilities (school, work) were part time, and our gaming was Full Time.  We played 8-12 hour sessions, at least two sessions a week.  Many games, many characters, a lot of headbutting but a lot of fun too.  Now, we play a 4 hour session once a week in alternating games, so the time spent playing any particular game is about 8 hours a month.  We play in a month what we used to play in a night.

The old way, we had a lot more time for exploration which was more interesting to me than challenge.  Today, time is at a premium, and the game we play is distilled down to the most basic elements.  Time spent on story is almost viewed as wasted time, the focus is on getting to the challenge.  Its pretty much Combat and Banter, with the occasional important story scene wedged in, time allotting.

One of the reasons story has to take so long in my group is my group isn't comfortable with meta.  To paraphrase something I just read over at bankuei's blog, things take a lot longer when everyone is trying to communicate through verbal charades.  That's the most frustrating part, not that my players don't have things to communicate, its that they're communicating things in such an inefficient manner.  If a player were to say, "I want to be the lost king of the svirfneblin, or maybe mistaken for the lost king of the svirfneblin," that's something that I as the GM can roll with.  It takes all of 30 seconds to introduce that element of the plot.  But my group has a real problem doing it that way, in part because they feel that if they jut ask for it and it happens, it wasn't earned.  If the player puts out hints, coded messages and veiled suggestions that the GM is perceptive (or lucky) enough to pick up on and includes them in the plot, then that's awesome.  If the player says it and the GM adopts it, its cheapened because it's just something the GM "decided".

I'm not sure if that's exactly how my players feel, but that's how I perceive it as a GM.  There's assumption that story can't be quick or easy because its never been quick or easy before, and if it is quick or easy its not as "real" as story that's brought about by torturous pantomime.   
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2008, 12:21:25 AM »

I'm getting a bit of this response from my playtest sessions of "The Eighth Sea". We're a group of players who have shared gaming over the past eight years or so, but most of that time I've been the GM.

Two of the players are always moaning about how they'd like to play in this sort of game, or they'd love to be a part of that sort of game...but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is....silence.

Another of the players always likes to interrupt established storylines with little things that involve only her character to the exclusion of everyone else in the room, but when it comes to sharing that imagination space with others she just gets offended and clams up shut.

The other members of the group just like being along for the ride.

Most of the players agree that we need to do something new and interesting to keep the dynamics of our games from stagnating, and I've tried numerous methods to create new levels of interaction. Many of these have been met with apathy, and some with hostility. None of the other members of the group have been willing to put their ideas on the line to spice things up.

It's frustrating and I feel your pain.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
greyorm
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2008, 01:41:15 PM »

Your situation matches, in a number of respects, my own situation a few years ago.

I had an on-line group I wanted to introduce more Narrativst play methods and ideas to, and I talked about such to them, included Narrativist-leaning rules in our D&D game, and so forth, all to no effect. No one ever did anything with them, to my immense frustration.

It required a lengthy group chat and follow-up e-mail conversation in which various confusions and problems were finally unearthed, stemming from habits picked up by years of traditional gaming, and unvoiced concerns and confusions based on all those existing ideas of what "gaming" looks like, the way it functions, and the ingrained assumptions of the consequences to the game experience for particular behaviors.

That managed to get us all on the same page, the group finally grasping what it was I was trying to do and what experience I desired from gaming. But in the long-run, even that did not help. The games were rough and seemed (to me) forced and just not where I was having fun. I don't know if I'd already hit the burnout point by then or not, but I eventually stopped playing RPGs, except with my own kids on the rare occasion, both because the whole experience had burned me out on them and I'm gun-shy of the idea of play now (and, also significantly, because I haven't been able to find any local groups that mesh with my schedule).

Based on all this, I would suggest finding a new group that matches your desires. You have one guy already, the one who wants to play Donjon. Start there. Since there will only be two of you, grab a copy of Mythic Game Master Emulator and use it as either the gamemaster or as a pseudo extra-player to get that "surprise feedback/plot twists" you want.

It occurs to me that you might even be able to handle playing with your regular play group using that, since it won't be "you" coming up with those twists, but you will be receiving such as if a player drew a Swashbuckling card -- though it doesn't do much if what you really want is player ownership of the game.

Another thing you can do is point them to this thread and ask them what they think your group and/or you should do, clearly and non-aggressively pointing out your frustration with the way things are going and your desire to enjoy the gaming experience again.

See if you can all come to some sort of consensus or understanding with them that doesn't rely on ultimatums or pressuring people to do things for others (ie: often mistakenly thought to be "compromising" and which is usually the quickest way to self-destruct your gaming group). What can you all have fun doing? And, BTW, if "nothing" is the answer, that's the answer.

Or maybe it is time to quit playing altogether and put those energies towards something you might enjoy more: if you love setting up situations and backgrounds and stories right up to the point of play, and back out after that, maybe you would more happy writing fiction than playing. Or not. That's something you have to figure out.

Whatever you decide, what you absolutely should not do is burn yourself out: knowingly disappointing yourself with the current group by pushing forward, trying to reshape them, and it certainly sounds like you are burning out. You'll tire of the process -- and you'll tire of gaming -- long before they are playing such that they play without you being disappointed or the whole thing feeling like work.

Quote
...players suggesting plot elements would wreck the GM's carefully prepared story lines.  (The point I found particularly surprising, since my group looks down on both railroading and illusionism.)

This seems (to me) to be a fairly important factor in the situation.

I don't know your group, so I don't know if this is the case here, but I've known and played in (and even GMed) numerous groups who claim the exact same, vocally defending the idea that an open, player-driven world is good and true, and yet when you get into play it happens that the exact opposite is the reality in play: some measure of illusionism ensuring the GM's imagined plot and various pre-planned events occur as intended.

Now, you can always point out to such a group that this is happening, but denial is a strong force and if people are invested in playing as if there is no man behind the curtain, the backlash can be angry (even vicious) for your dispelling the illusion of free-will they are relying on for their fun or accepting out of habit.

Mainly, most people just don't like it when others point out any disconnect between their statements/beliefs and actual actions, whatever the situation (from gaming to religion to politics to education to etc). Like I said, I don't know your group, so I can't say what the case is with them. I'm just putting it out there as an experiential observation that could affect how you want to go forward.

Regardless, this disconnect between "hating railroading and illusionism" and "protecting the GM's railroad" should be discussed by your group.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Greis
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2008, 12:50:21 PM »

I went for a different approach when I started introducing narrative elements into my D&D-campaign (E3.5, Mystara-setting).

1) I don't bother with calling it narrative rules or anything. I just call it houserules, whose purpose is solely to benefit the players by giving them more options.
2) I also assure the players, that no matter how they use these rules, they cannot ruin the plot or my plans or whatever (actually my plans are basicly a series of bangs, so it's hard to ruin anything, but none the less).
3) Most of the houserules have been following the principle "Do something, gain +2 modifier":
- Find a spell in the library? Describe the book in which you hope to find it, gain +2 bonus to relevant skill
- Succeed in disabling a trap. Tell how your mentor taught you, and gain a +2 bonus to Disable Device.
- Play (or tell) a scene, where you question a bartender, gain +2 Gather Information
etc.

I got inspired by Cigarette Smoking Girls about how you could get a bonus by following the anothers advice. I changed it to gain a bonus by adding details or playing a scene. A +2 modifier in D&D can often be worth the trouble, otherwise just spice it up to +4.

The results have been amazing. All kinds of minor and yet very telling scenes are being played out, my players add details to the setting, and it has become very easy for them to do. And in all of this they are inevitably introducing all the spicy details I need to further expand plots and intrigues.

So do it slowly, give a tangible bonus for trying (not for the quality, lets not bother with that), and guide your players. For example, a rogue needs to unlock a door. Tell the player, if he can relate a small story/flashback-scene about how he was taught this skill, he gains a onetime +4 mod. Hopefully he jumps at this opportunity and then invents a mentor! Or have a cleric to relate some of his tenets next time, he needs to do a Heal-check, or have the wizard tell about his old master the next time he needs to succeed a Knowledge Arcana-roll - perhaps you can play it as flashback-scenes!

If your player suggests an alternative way of getting the bonus, then ride with it. And remember to use the things, your players introduce in these small scenes - consider them nice little flags to areas that can be expanded.

Also I sure that you can sneak these options into your Shadowrun game - just have the players add technical details about weaponry, cyberware and computerprogrammes.
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Mason
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« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2008, 06:52:43 AM »

That's a good idea.  I'll definitely be giving that a shot. 

greynorm, as much as my group professes to hate both railroading and illusionism, I've known for some time (instinctually anyway) that its not as simple as that.  I was running a True20 last year set in mythic Carthage, and I put a lot of work into it as a sandbox style environment where the PC's could go places and explore things, and the game floundered.  Only when I specifically started designing linked, linear scenarios did the game build any momentum at all.

So even though my group thinks of railroading as a dirty word, they still respond to it in the short term.  They move very confidently towards immediate, GM-provided goals.   The overall feeling is, in a prep-heavy game like D&D, in a given session it's rude to jump the tracks.  Gone are the days when we improv and riff until the wee hours of the morn.  The downside of this is the games end up being a series of disconnected challenges, its pretty rare for there to be a story that anyone (aside from maybe the GM) is invested in.  When we sit around telling gaming stories we talk about the Who, What, When, Where and How, but there is rarely any mention of the Why.  That element of the game has sadly atrophied. 
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2008, 09:26:20 AM »

I think that if they were familiar with the concept of Participationism, they'd be fine with that.

Railroading is bad because it implies that the players are forced down a particular track against their will.

Illusionism is bad because the DM is basically lying to them.

Participationism, on the other hand, can be functional. The players know that the DM is authoring the story. They want the DM to author the story, so they can explore the DM's story.

As for player investment.. There's the concept of flags. Are you familiar with it?
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~Lance Allen
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Mason
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Posts: 18


« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2008, 10:29:07 AM »

I've heard the term before, they're things your character can't ignore, right?  Something important to the player about the character. 

On the one hand, my players are capable of plotting a character's class progression and linked emotional growth from 1st-20th level (in fact, I read one character summation this morning for a 20th level progression that tracked a mechanical and emotional journey from attempting to escape his destiny to ultimately surrendering to it and I thought, Wow, you don't even have to role-play it.  Its built-in.)  On the other, you ask them what's important to the character and more often than not you get some combination of a blank stare and "Oh, you know, whatever you want to run is fine."

Nobody wants to make a decision that makes the GM's job harder, so no one ends up making any decisions.  And I'm left running a game for a table of furitive cyphers. 

I think if my players (who are also mostly my GM's) simply were not interested in these elements of the game, I'd be okay with it.  I wouldn't be able to change their minds, because people like what they like.  But the way I see our games fail most often is due to apathy, either the GM gets bored and calls it, or the group gets bored and calls it.  We'll play a game we're not excited about for 2 or 3 months, and then it grinds to a halt.  Our games end with a whimper, I can't think of the last one to end with a bang.  And the reason by a wide margin is, people aren't invested in the story.
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greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2008, 04:53:04 PM »

I've heard the term before, they're things your character can't ignore, right?  Something important to the player about the character.

Sort of. "Flags" are things on the character sheet that the GM can use to run with ("...things your character can't ignore" sounds more like a Kicker or Bang). Example: the warrior takes three ranks of "Cooking" as one of his skill choices. That's a Flag. The wizard character has a brother listed on her sheet. That's a Flag.

Here's a link to Chris' excellent article on Flag Framing, salvaged from archive.org, and the follow-up to it on Conflict Webs. Hopefully the observations and techniques will prove to be of some use.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Greis
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« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2008, 11:41:26 PM »


Sort of. "Flags" are things on the character sheet that the GM can use to run with ("...things your character can't ignore" sounds more like a Kicker or Bang). Example: the warrior takes three ranks of "Cooking" as one of his skill choices. That's a Flag. The wizard character has a brother listed on her sheet. That's a Flag.


Exactly. One function of the system I suggested is that it let the PC's add details to the setting and their characters. These details often ends up functioning af flags. By seizing the themes, the fluff and the NPC's introduced in these small scenes or descriptions you can build the events in the scenario around your PC's. E.g. instead of introducing "a distant uncle from your character's past", you'll instead use the NPC already introduced by the player in a flashbackscene.

By the way I forgot to mention that you can disguise this houserule in D&D as an expanded version of the "Aid Another"-option. Originally you get to apply a +2 bonus to your fellow PC in combat, but now you get to apply it to skillchecks, if you play/describe a scene or a flashback scene with an NPC, that possesses the relevant skill.

So as Geryorm and Wolfen says: Flags. Go look for 'em.

I like to introduce houserules that support the introduction of flags in the game and rewards the player in doing so. Consider my above suggestion a houserule to introduce NPC-flags and in the former post, there were backstory and setting flags. Well loosely defined flags at least.
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Paul T
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Posts: 383


« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2008, 12:27:48 PM »

There are also indirect methods of player authorship. You know how, in Donjon, you can try to do something, and if you roll well, you just changed something about the gameworld?

You can do that with any kind of conflict resolution system where a player must state their desired goal upfront.

For instance, try playing The Pool with the folks:

http://www.randomordercreations.com/rpg.htm

If they're not into narrating outcomes, you can still get the effect, because with each action, a player _must_ decide:

A) What they are trying to achieve, a concrete goal for their character, and
B) How difficult it will be to achieve. (Allocating dice to a roll is the same thing, in a sense, as setting a low difficulty for that action--your chances of success are high.)

When a player says "I want to achieve X", and then sets a difficulty for that action, and succeeds, he or she has just changed something about the world in a way that you, as the GM, cannot stop or prevent. You'll often get surprises this way, even while to the players it just seems like they're doing the logical thing.

The narration option is neat, but you can still get this effect without it. Just have any successful roll add a die to a player's pool, and ignore the "take a MoV" option.

Just another suggestion! They may rebel against that, too, for all I know.
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