I come on bended knee, seeking help.

Started by Dionysus, November 27, 2008, 04:25:59 AM

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Howdy all.

I'm here on bended kneee seeking help. Like the title says, I need to move away from crunch, and need some advise on how to persuade my group that this is a good thing - Crunch is killing me :(

We've been playing as a group for a couple of years now. We have a core group of 4, and normally 2-3 extras for each campaign. We've been a fairly strong characterisation group - The past games we've played were.

nWoD mortals: Ghost story: 5 people connected by a grandfather they never knew. Dealing with a haunted house/town and the bloody family history. Lasted 10 sessions when one player became, essentialy, a vampire. The "powers" of the vampire destroyed the game setting unfortunately :(

nWoD mage: 5 mortals chosen as "examples of their age" to help decide the dawning of a new age - had a more "indiana jones" feel to it with ancient babylonian ruins, trapped demons needing to be outsmarted, mysterious cults and a doomsday countdown. That lasted 23 sessions, until after the doomsday - returning to normal life after changing the world was not possible for our characters... they had become too powerful and their concerns were not human anymore... It was an awesome game and everyone wanted to play more like it - but this time to start out "powerful".

So - on to our current game. We've decided to try out the "exalted" game. I was hesitant at the beginning due to its notoriously heavy crunch - the endless lists of "charms" and weird crunch mechanics. But, we're now at session 20 and the story is realy kicking along.
The story is a little different from the "canon" exalted. We have only got a handful of the reborn heroes. The early sessions were mainly about some monks and a farmer in a town attacked by demons - it felt very much like "7 samurai". One became the focal point for the next sessions with his wife taken prisoner and the players chasing across the desert and into the underworld searching for his wife (which ended with a tearful goodbye in a teahouse on the edge of the underworld, and the (ghost)wife being taken away by the ghosts of the soldiers who had died defending the village)

The great moments of the game are really the characters and their interactions - the players have jumped at the idea of these reborn "exalted shards" that have given these powers to mortal men - and have actually taken an almost multiple personality feel - referring to the shards as separate things that sometimes seem to take over - also the interaction between the characters and their own coming to grips with having become things that their religion brands as "demons and anathema".

The horrible parts come in two parts - the combat... Oh god the combat and making NPCs. As the GM i hate with a passion making the NPCs and we've gone to the point of basically handwaving NPCs and just describing what they do. Also the charms, 2 of the group LOVE the charms and all the simulation of the world. They are getting a kick out of how they plan to change the world. But one other and I (gm) had to sit down and work out what to do with one character who felt that she couldn't translate her idea of her character into the mechanics - mainly upset at the charms. I have another potetial player who wants to join in, but literally cant make a character as every time she gets to the lists of charms gets depressed about "studying for a game".

Any time we get into combat, the effects of the mechanics seems to bog everything down and we loose the feel of the game. The fun combats have been very much when we ignore the mechanics and just describe how the characters are doing things. One perfect example of this was a when the group was facing off against a river dragon (think giant armored crocodile). Within the mechanics the group basically had no way to harm it - The farmer was trying to shoot it and doing nothing, the armored noble was having her sword bounce off the hide - Everyone was feeling down and looking distracted.
It got saved when we literally stopped rolling and the armored noble described letting herself getting chomped by the dragon, and while in the mouth trying to use her body to wrench the jaws open, then the farmer described shoving the gun into the mouth and shooting into the brain of the dragon... Everyone was then cheering and taking excitedly and jumping around the table pantomiming what was happening.

And yet, even though the fun parts are coming when we ignore the rules and just narrate what is happening, two of the group refuse to consider changing the rules midway and profess to love the system/charms/mechanics...

There is a very strong feel of "this character sheet is my character", and when I was trying to maybe use the fudge system there was a strong backlash against it as "it doesn't describe my character on the sheet." They seem to like the "level ding" and such.

It makes me a little sad, but i'm still struggling along, and the players are still mailing me trying to organise the next sessions and trying to find free afternoons that we can sit and continue the game.

Basically: The story is still going strong and has people excited and wanting to play (even me), but the mechanics really bog down the game and make we want to pull my hair out in frstration trying to run using them.

I'm trying to find a way to persuade the group to make the switch to a much lighter system, but need to find one that will preserve the feel of "epic legends and tradgedy" but the mechanics should promote and reward the cool storytelling from the characters, not hinder them...

I've been looking at The Shadow of Yesterday, In a wicked age, Prime Time Adventures, and 1001 nights for ideas on how to lighten the system

Basically I want some advise or help on - how to promote (mechanically) player narrative, get away from the "swing sword, hit for 5 points" combat, but to kep some type of advancement/level ding at times...


Hi Dionysus - welcome to the Forge!  (I guess you're not new here, but I haven't said it to anyone in a while.) 

Have you tried explaining all this to the players, out in the open?  That one player effectively feels unable to play the game, and that you're basically not playing the game either--and that this is affecting your ability to enjoy the time you're spending with your friends?    If so, what have these players said in response?  I also think it would be good to have the players describe what they liked about playing *with this system* and what they disliked.

It sounds like you've got a few players who really love fooling around with character builds, with the goal of becoming really good at doing particular things--without realizing that the GM is no longer playing by the rules of the game.  That is, acquiring mastery of the charm system might be worthwhile in its own right, but has no application to the play of the game because (it sounds like) the obstacles they're overcoming are pretty much created through handwaving.

I wouldn't think about substituting another game system with this specific group of people until everyone's aware of the social issues involved.



Howdy, Thanks for the welcome :)

Yes, we had a big talk about this, and ended with a break for about a month. We tried looking at the FATE system (which is much nicer in many ways, but the stunt list was nearly as bad as the charms). had two players jumping on the idea, and the other two being very anti the idea. The "translation" was the sticking point. Literally "I dont think FATE can accurately model the celestial exalted".

That and fate had no real mechanic for improvement as written.

I think (from what i understand fro reading here) that 2 of my players are "simulationist", while my other two lean more towards the narrative end of the spectrum....

I am enjoying the story so much that i'm continuing to GM, but its wearing at me. The story and ideas are great fun, as is the roleplay, but when things get down to the mechanics its a serious disconnect for me. keeping track of damage, and modifiers, and how much essense is being spent, and the multiple actions etc....

But I was willing to go on until one of the players came to me saying that she felt her character was being constrained by the mechanics (and I agreed) and she was feelling her character was falling behind by comparison (as she wasn't fuly aware of the intricacies of the system, and didn't enjoy trying to be)
I feel that some change is required, but after my last failed attempt, i want to prepare my points before hand, and make sure that I can offer my players something that they will feel enjoyable


Dionysus, what are the social relationships here, in terms of age, who's friends with whom, how long people have been playing, etc.?  Because it sounds like two players are (kind of) dictating terms about how this group will play, and their potential frustrations are given more weight than the actual frustrations of you and the other player.

Also: when people really liked the World of Darkness games, can you give an example of some stuff that worked really well, in the sense that you got a lot of enjoyment out of it - and what part the rules played in facilitating that outcome?

Also - if you're in the US - happy Thanksgiving!


Hi again.

Well, all the people involved at in their late 20s - early 30s. A, B, C, D
A and B are married (A want level ding and crunch, B wants story and characterisation) They have both played for many many years.  C is the other crunch lover, and has played in a number of campaigns for many years. D has played a bit here and there, but only a bit of old red-book D&D. D is the one who was flustered by exalted charms and rules.

A plays interesting characters. The mad scientist, The drug addicted necromancer, He likes his level ding and fiddling with mechanics. Most characters like to push the limits of what the mechanics can cover. (if i can do this and this, well then that means i can also do that?)

B often prefers to take "support characters" - ones who have more of an impact through their backstory/influences rather than their in-game direct actions. Lots of deep backstory and reacting to the storyline. Like character growth through experiences in game.

C loves having "powers". Very good roleplayer, but is a walking ruleslawyer-encyclopedia. Reminds me of the r2d2 character in http://www.darthsanddroids.net/

D likes roleplaying in so much as it allows her to spend time with her friends and tell stories together. SHe wants to act through stories like she reads in book. (love ra salvatore, Jim butcher, etc)

In the world of darkness games, The best fun really came from outsmarting enemies/situations, piecing together the plots and turning them against enemies. Honestly in my games I'll often have 2 or 3 "thigns" going on in the background, and often the players will come up with theories which connect them - more times than not they sound cool so I make them so. :) One of the best few session involved some time travelling mages - who were reliving the events they went through in the first sessions - they players decided to be the people who were doing things in the background - they went to the same places and played out explanations as to how things happened before.Like 1st time they were being chased by police and vampires who suddenly seemed to loose them (I rolled badly for the NPCs). But 2nd time around the players got their older characters to actually head off the police and vampires and put them on different paths.

And also the huge zombie plague outbreak in JFK airport - It was the big event that started the game at the end of the 1st session, but the 2nd time around they had a few days - and even though they could have tried to stop it, they went totally in character and used the time to set up safehouses/prepare for the apocalypse and get safe so that they and friends could surive. The players were having lots of fun discussing what would be the best way to sirvive the even they knew was coming. (even during work lunch for the whole week it was the sole topic of conversation - lots of strange looks from co-workers)

We honestly have had very very little combat - and it usually gets resolved by clever things the characters do - very little actually wearing down the enemy, but using the environment or pre-knowledge to outwit. (like trapping night demons so they would be exposed to light - killing them, Or planting evidence to get a policeman taken away by internal affairs etc).