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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 31 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Facilitating Coherent Play and the Shared Agenda  (Read 4320 times)
Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« on: December 09, 2008, 10:19:07 AM »

My group recently ended its fourth 4e campaign within the last year or so.
I suspect incoherent play caused each attempt to fail. (E.g., People "checking-out" when not spotlighted, lots of talk about WOW, computer use etc..)

We have agreed to meet and discuss what we want out of gaming before we try again.

I'm posting here, asking for advice on how I can facilitate this discussion. 
What are good questions to ask?
What are good ways to avoid antagonism?
What are good ways of reflecting back what people say in terms of GNS, without them feeling pigeon holed?

(None of the other players in my group have any familiarity with The Big Model.  When I tried, in the past, to use Big Model language they reacted defensively or incredulously or both).
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2008, 03:14:01 PM »

Rusty,
  First, don't use GNS terms. Some people have strong feelings about GNS terms and may take an unnecessarily adversarial role if you do.
  Second, start by asking everyone to mention one thing they loved from the 4 sessions played so far.
  Third, don't come with an agenda, gamers are more socially savvy than a lot of people give them credit for. so, if you try and push your idea of a good game, you will get all kinds of weird resistance.
  Combine open-ended questions (what do you like) with directed questions (do you like alignments). No one technique will help you hone in on what you want.
  If there is already tension in your group over the perceived level of fun, then avoid allowing anyone to complain about what happened. This will probably only aggravate the situation.
  When someone answers, stop and listen to what they have to say. Don't let others interrupt and don't ignore them, even if they go on for a bit. If you want them to engage, you have to give them the space and time to do it on their terms. Also, if someone doesn't feel like their opinion mattered, they may undermine the game (possibly unintentionally).
  Also, try and set the tone by stating something like "I feel like we are all having fun. But, if we discuss our games, we might be able to make it more fun" or something like that. Give people an idea where you are coming from, right?
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 03:33:43 PM »

Hi Rustin,

Have you had some moments in those 4E campaigns or any RP session that were enjoyable, that you could tell us about here? There needs to be an actual play account of some sort anyway as it's like the requirement/door fee for the AP forum.
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Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2008, 05:43:02 PM »

DinDenver,
Thanks for the reply and suggestions. 

Callan S.,
I was hoping after: “Yeah, let’s play a game,” Actual Play had begun, and figured that was enough concrete stuff to say play had started for the requirements for posting. But yeah, let me give you some history, which I think will help.  Let me try to answer your question.

As for past play with this particular group (I’ve known members of for over twenty years), there are many moments of fun; too many fun ones to count really. 

As for specific fun 4e moments for me:
-One fun combat (me GM, I’m GM in all instances of 4e play) where I pushed them to the limit using table top miniatures, combat on a tower with a bridge and specters attacking.  Sort of fun, not super fun, but I used tactics and they used tactics; they gamed the system as did I.  It was a good bit of competition; the group against me.

-Last time we discussed how to change up the Campaign, again.  We brainstormed together a different setting with an agreement to try more “roleplay” than just go to the dice so quickly.  Use more of a vanilla fantasy setting.  I was excited after that discussion and found the idea of generating a political situation fun.  But that never came to fruition.  When I say roleplay, I mean, the Players narrate actions, and they’d trust me as GM to rule what would and wouldn’t happen—almost a karma/drama system.

-The second to last time we discussed a campaign setting, and we came up with ideas of an underworld adventure, with a dragon deep in the depths which dominated the underdark. That was fun for me right after we had nailed down the general color and tone of the game and I began to imagine preparing fun stuff.

Fun stuff beyond the 4e era has a different context.  We could play for longer stretches of time, more frequently and I generally did not GM those.  Also, this was before WOW.  All my players love WOW.  I dabble, but don’t really live WOW.

Even still, I think we simply pushed through the problems that we’re having now, back then, with hours and hours of a kind of mostly fruitless, wandering play.  But there are moments that are recalled and retold fondly, with great laughter and such.
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dindenver
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 06:20:54 AM »

Rusty,
  Two things will be actual barriers though:
1) Players that are not very introspective. In other words: if they haven't thought about it, they may not be able to put to words what is fun for them.
2) Generally, there are certain players that do not like to over-analyze or re-hash their games. There are a variety of good reasons for this, so don't look at it as a blocking maneuver or anything like this. If you think one of your players is like this, try and get them to identify that for you. And then, if that is the case, come up with a method for helping them find a good fit in the group that doesn't force them out of their comfort zone regarding analyzing play.

  Basically, there is a group of players that feel that if they analyze play, it takes the magic out of the game. If they stop and analyze why it is their characters always jump to the defense of defenseless women, then it's like spoiling the ending of a movie for them. and still others that want to check their brain at the door. The thing is, these are valid play styles and not unhealthy or counter productive to fun at all. So, you need to find a way to smooth this out without pushing their buttons, right? I'd suggest that for these players, keep all the questions directed (e.g., "X was fun for me, did you like it or hate it?") so they can't misinterpret the reasoning behind the question and then don't share your analysis of their answers with them. But, be extra careful that their answers get rolled up into a bigger summary at the end of your brainstorming session though.

  Does that make sense? Either way, I hope it helps.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 11:18:13 AM »

Dave,

The issue here is: Can my group use the language and methods of Roleplay theory to help us improve our future gaming.  I am not just interested in seeing a historical review, where someone labels and describes our past play in GNS terminology.  Perhaps that is a necessary part, but I don't want that to be the end of it. 

My understanding is that, once we identify Creative Agenda, through compromise, focus and attention, our fun will increase (E.g., We can pick the correct system).

I am looking for help requesting specific methods to identify and communicate that Creative Agenda.
Your #1 and #2 give a pretty good description of the players in this particular group.
How does an individual enter that pre-game discussion, knowing full well social or creative forces (or both) hinder reflection and analysis? Conversely, I don't want to go into the discussion feeling like I'm walking on egg shells.

Something like:
If your group can answer X, Y and Z you can identify your group's Creative Agenda before you start to Explore.  With that knowledge you can then chose the best System for your purposes.   

When would you suggest I share any analysis I make.
Let's say, I do ask them questions such as "I like X, did you?" and I get an answer that hints at Sim as their preferred goal of play.  How would you suggest I communicate that conclusion without sharing my analysis? Do I go directly to suggesting a particular technique/system?

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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 02:36:27 PM »

Hi again Rustin,

I've been in your situation, where I've been trying to round up all the desires of people so as to include them all.

What, if any, responsiblity would you say they have in terms of getting fun for themselves?
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Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 04:56:38 PM »

Callan,

Assuming all players should come to the table expecting to contribute to the fun (maybe a bit disproportionate for GM vs. Player), do you think the first issue we should resolve is deciding how much effort each player is expected to contribute?

Can you think of an effective way of introducing this issue to the discussion?
Have you had success in introducing the issue of “everyone must contribute to the fun” in the past? 

Would it help if we nailed down specifics at-the-table-behaviors that we can request and expect?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2008, 05:10:57 PM »

I think even before that, the very first issue to resolve is whether they are responsible for deciding if they will attend an activity, with that responsiblity including, by their own standards, giving the activity a good honest go (even if they don't know much about it). And if they don't like the sound of the activity or their not prepared to give it a good, honest go, they are responsible for not participating.

Would you say they have this responsiblity? By that I mean in your gaming culture is that an responsiblity the norm?
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Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2008, 06:55:36 PM »

Yes, I think most of the players are willing to take on responsibility. They have in the past.  Though, I think “liking the sound of the activity” is critical.  So, the issue might be: are they willing to trying a different and new responsibility.
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dindenver
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 07:40:54 PM »

Rusty,
  The trick is that using GNS terms at the table, can lead to antagonism.
  Any of your group who have internet and check out places like rpg.net have been exposed to GNS terms, but may have preconceptions or different understanding than you of what they mean.

  And you can't pre-program these questions. You have to "wing it." You can make a menu of more open ended questions, then zoom in on those answers. So, for instance, you can ask, "what was your favorite moment in the last campaign?" Then depending on the answer, you need to ask a different question depending on how you interpret the answer. But, if you want to stay truer to GNS, ou need to focus o actual play. The terms are totally meaningless outside the context of actual play, you know?

  Finally, if you have a player/players that actually dislike self analysis, then you need to respect that or you will be adding to the internal tension of the group, right?

  Ultimately, I think its wisest to use plain language to discuss "at the table issues." There is no real value to trying to train them to understand GNS at the table and if you won't do that, there is no point to using GNS in that discussion.

  Either way, good luck getting your group together man!
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2008, 09:52:31 PM »

Yes, I think most of the players are willing to take on responsibility. They have in the past.  Though, I think “liking the sound of the activity” is critical.  So, the issue might be: are they willing to trying a different and new responsibility.
This is going to sound a little rough, but you haven't answered my question at all. Have a read my previous post through again. Or if you don't want to answer it, fair enough and I'll leave it at that.
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Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 07:19:24 AM »

Callan,

Thanks for pointing me back to your original question.  I had to read it through a few times before it clicked. (I hope).  I don’t mind if your posts have to sound a little rough; whatever it takes to communicate, as I really want to solve this problem.

Quote
And if they don't like the sound of the activity or their not prepared to give it a good, honest go, they are responsible for not participating.

Let me try to answer, and let me know if I get what you are asking.
 
You’re asking about two sets of responsibilities that describe one major responsibility.   

In other words:
Responsibility #1: Play only if the game sounds like something you can jump into.
Responsibility #2: Step out if you feel like the game is something you can’t jump into.

Major Responsibility: Play only if you are serious.

I would say this group does not follow the major responsibility.  The norm is to allow people to show up and play whatever their scale of interest in the game might be.
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FredGarber
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2008, 05:03:54 PM »

Perhaps this might work: it worked with my group, but my situation was (a) it was Everquest, not WOW, and (b) I had one player with a Dramatic Arts degree, one player with a Masters in English, and one player with a Psychology degree as three out of five of my players, and I've got a degree in Seconday Eduction.  Our communication and analysis about our own desires and goals was extremely articulate, so YMMV.

I didn't play Everquest, but I took the time and read up on the basic concepts: character classes, possible actions, and types of missions. 
Then we discussed what they liked and disliked about the online game.  It tried to map the things they enjoyed doing online to the things they enjoyed doing face to face.  I tried to supply the things that were lacking in the online game.  The game only ended when people moved out of town, so I count it a success.

We ended up with a homebrew Gurp-ish game.  It was pretty fascinating from a design standpoint, where one of the design parameters was the amount of real-world focus needed to accomplish certain tasks: They liked the fact that in online combats, they could click away while discussing out of game stuff, but they liked how in the tabletop games that every adventure was a "quest" adventure, and there were no "farming" or "wait for the item drop" missions.

-Fred

edited to fix formatting - RE
« Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 05:15:19 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Rustin
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2008, 08:55:34 AM »

Fred,
Thank you for the reply.

When you mapped the enjoyable online things to the enjoyable face-to-face things, did you use GNS/Big Model language?

Did you just ask them for specific instances of play that they enjoyed which you then followed up with your own private GNS/BM analysis, or did they express what they liked in more GNS terms from the get go? 

I'm very curious to know more about your Gurpish homebrew in GNS terms.  Maybe one specific example going from your facilitation, to the analysis to the rule(s).  That would be helpful.


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