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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 28 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend  (Read 14750 times)
Paul Czege
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« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2008, 12:49:23 PM »

Graham Walmsley and I came to some insights about 3:16 in conversation via IM yesterday. He's seen it played well more than I have. Here's a summary:

When you see 3:16 played well, there's lots of character play between missions, and between encounters. If you're not understanding 3:16, this looks like players and the GM simply characterizing their characters. It looks a lot like the fun you see players bring to trad convention games, a quick facility at portraying their characters for the entertainment of the group. It looks like frivolous fun making. But in 3:16 it is more than what it looks like.

The character play in 3:16 concerns itself with the interpersonal dysfunctions of military operations. When you see 3:16 played well, what looks like mostly free-form character play is actually players who've bought into the game's military context engaging in very important back-and-forth defining and building of that context.

So for 3:16 to work, you need two things, both of which I didn't have when I ran it:

    1. Players need to buy in to the shared defining of the military context as an important part of the game.
    2. The GM needs to understand and be creative with the bait he has at his disposal, and the orders he gives the players within the military context.

When I ran the game I failed to recognize the importance of player buy-in to shared defining of the military context.

I saw what Eero, John, and the crew in the game at Gen Con were doing merely as fun character play. Graham thinks the Reputations are a key driver here. When you put Reputations like Loyal, Drunkard, Coward, and Bloodthirsty together with player buy-in to the military context, you can't help but begin the shared building and defining of the military context. So, I might have succeeded if I'd been able to drive some character play via my own understanding of dysfunctional military personalities, some shared defining of the military context could have happened as an effect of the character play. But, as I wrote above, my ability to do dysfunctional military personalities is undeveloped.

And I failed understand the workings of bait and inter-mission scenes and orders.

I don't know whether Simon is accurate that failing an NFA roll against a superior officer is like failing to resist a Command in My Life with Master, as my 3:16 book is loaned out. But I did read it carefully, and that wasn't my impression. Still, it doesn't matter one way or the other. Lots of folks have made suggestions on this thread about the bait the GM has at his disposal. Graham suggested in our conversation that an officer might offer a trooper a weapon upgrade. It's clear that when some folks read the game text they just know how all the in-game bits of weapons and rank and orders can work for the GM as incentives and pressures to drive the progressive defining of the military context. I didn't get this when I read the text. But with players who're bought into the shared defining of the military context, it's this stuff that's the fuel. (And this thread's a great resource, so thanks.)

So yeah, I'm the perfect storm of bad for 3:16. But y'know, that's now clearly why the game has my attention. It's an opportunity for me to develop as a gamer.

Maybe it's time to rent Full Metal Jacket...

Paul
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Valamir
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« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2008, 01:44:13 PM »

Paul, I don't have quite as much 3:16 experience as some, but yes.  I can confirm all of the above in the sessions I've played as well.

Reputations are extremely important and its important that everyone knows what they are.

Here's an example from a GenCon session where Alexander N. really set the tone for the upcoming interactions.  He barked out each step in the character creation process like a Drill Sergeant ("And now you have an FA, FA is Fighting Ability, do not make me explain what Fighting Ability means, if you do not understand the Ability to Fight you are too stupid to be a Marine" that sort of thing).  When he got to Reputations:  "You each have a Reputation, when I call on you, you will give it to me and it will be added to your file..."  When he got to me, I didn't have a Reputation picked out yet (cuz I was trying to be all clever and he gave us like no time) he said "Very Well, your Reputation is that you're Stupid Git, because you are, in fact, a stupid git...any questions? There better not be".

That sort of thing. 

And yes...learn to talk like R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket and you'll know how to talk to your 3:16 players as GM...and the end of that movie will show you exactly why this leads to the kind of Conflict you're currently lacking.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2008, 08:52:25 PM »

Ohhhh yes... In-character character-creation is a must. The game begins immediately once you sit them down in front of their character sheets. I wasn't the barking Drill Instructor, though. I was the bored lieutenant, processing in his new troopers.

"Write down a name. I don't even care if it's your real name, just write it down, so we know what to call you."

"Alright, I want you to tell me, in very general terms, how good you are at fight compared to how good you are at everything else. Just, I don't know, divide 10 points up between the two, and write it down. No, I don't care about the details. Just write it down. No, obviously you can't have a 1 in either one, because that would mean you're too stupid to breathe or too incompetent to be in the TEF."
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Pelgrane
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2008, 09:15:37 AM »

I don't know whether Simon is accurate that failing an NFA roll against a superior officer is like failing to resist a Command in My Life with Master, as my 3:16 book is loaned out.
Paul

The rules reference is on page 46 "the winner can impose an order on the loser", and this applies equally to superior PC and NPC ranks. We found this rule rather useful, as it appears to give officers power over troopers, but really just makes them resentful and try to twist the orders.


Simon
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matthijs
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« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2008, 04:35:58 AM »

Paul, I think you're absolutely right with regards to the military context. To me, the status play within the strict boundaries of rank order etc are at least as important as the mission play within the boundaries of the conflict system. They're two different games that feed into each other.

I've only played this game once, but it was a very good session. I think we all intuitively (or by blind luck) grabbed onto the military status game straight away. As GM, I gave the first mission briefing in-character as a nervous officer who clearly had little or no information about the mission, showing one dysfunction. A higher-ranking NPC later went into "sly politician" mode, trying to hose the players when the orders he gave them backfired. Two of the players got into a very intense in-character fight between missions, which almost ended badly due to some physical play.

All these things happened between missions; the players went into the missions knowing they were part of a fucked up system, and with some potential authority problems just below the surface waiting to explode.
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Tomas HVM
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« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2008, 02:07:07 AM »

So I went into the game expecting to rely on everyone else's character immersion to inspire my own efforts.

And they didn't.
In my view the key to understanding your failure lies in this, Paul. You went into a GM-driven game as a GM expecting the players to be the motor of the game. It may be due to some misunderstood idea of "leaving the field to the players". The idea is sound enough in itself, but it depends heavily on "a field" to be created. In this kind of game "the field" has to be created by you; the GM.

So your attitude was flawed. Still: when the game turned sour you still could have salvaged it. You desrcibe the players as joking and being not-serious. That is fine! As a GM you may tap into their mode of play, and turn it. To "tap into it" may be done by making jokes yourself, preferrably with in-game characters. Use the NPC's to cater for jokes in-game, and soon you will have the players joking their heads off in-character.

- And then you introduce a high-strung non-joking officer, who goes off about their jokes being detrimental to morale, and gives them a lecture about the seriousness of the business of slaughtering aliens. "We are here to save mankind, not to make silly jokes!!!"

- After this lecture you shift back to the joking NPC again, and ally yourself with the players in vilifying the officer who don't understand the joke, or the harsh reality that makes such jokes necessary. "What the fuck does he expect of us? To cry for the motherfucking aliens? We make jokes cause that's the only way to survive this shit!!!"

- By this time you should see the players being fully immersed in the game with you, and from there on you may open the field for whatever they comes up with, or whatever comes to your mind.

Hope this helps you understand why it went wrong, and how the game may have been salvaged. Any slackness in attitude of the GM will endanger any GM-driven game.
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2008, 07:25:55 AM »

Hello,

I am skeptical of much of the advice offered in the past page of posts. The funny thing is, I agree with all of it. But at best it's speculative, and given Paul's account of what he did do in play, I'm reading it as "what you did, just more of it." I'm not sure how any mission situation, for instance, could have emphasized the relevant buy-in more than the three-eyed ape baby scene. And in my experience of the game, players engaged immediately, with full commitment to the various nuances of satire, adventure, competition, and more, with much less introductory material than he provided pre-mission.

I think one variable's getting missed: for its most obvious expression, how people respond to the phrase "kill-happy machismo" as on the back cover. The interior text even says to read that to the players and they'll get how to play. This may be an American/European thing, or maybe not, but to some readers, that phrase cannot be anything except critical of the military, dubious at most of any interventionist military mission, and aware of the weird blend of complicity and victimization of the soldiers themselves. Whereas to others, it means ... well, kill-happy machismo. Clearing the gooks from the hamlet, and making sure the grandmother gets a couple in the belly so she can't blow up Bob from Kankakee with her concealed hand-grenade. Kicking some ass so the world can see. Teaching the sand-niggers a lesson they'll never forget, because they were too stupid to take the hint last time. Yes, that ugly. That stupid. That literal.

One possible angle of discussion would concern Full Metal Jacket and Paul's friends from his earlier gaming days, but I fear that will become too focused on the film and fandom of the film, rather than on this game, so I log it here for follow-up later, maybe.

I want to stress that I'm not talking about soldiers as players; in fact, based on several Forge members' accounts of role-playing in-country, their games tend to be very strong on the kind of satirical, gonzo-but-bitter content that we're favoring in this thread, and which I'll bluntly say 3:16 is about. I'm talking about a non-military but military-excited mind-set.

My take on Paul's play-experience, keeping in mind I wasn't there and am only going by this thread's content, is that he did learn important lessons as he summarized himself, above, and needs no further advice. No first-play effort is perfect in my experience. My take is also that no further advice will be meaningful, especially when phrased in terms of a guarantee as Tomas did, because to a certain set of players (neither demographic nor subcultural; this is political in a sense long lost to the common use of that word), when you play military guys with big guns, you're there to shoot the enemy terrorists communists enemy gooks.

In those circumstances, I don't know what could possibly be done, and whatever could, it'd have to be at the outset of and introduction to play. I don't think correction could occur via in-play material at all.

Best, Ron
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2008, 09:44:39 AM »

Thanks to Paul for the thread and taking the time over the game. I've read the posts and nodded along, and it's given me food for thought too. Anyway, I've been noodling on this over the weekend and I don't have anything to add that isn't covered, more succinctly, by Ron's post above.

As an explanation of the "buy-in" for myself -- I specifically wrote the book and made it look the way it does to excite the gamers I used to play 2300AD with back in the day. I reached back in my mind to what made those games exciting/interesting for them/me.

I'd hoped that the book, if I could do it right, will turn people way on to it (woohaaa!), or turn them way off (OK, that's not for me!). So, maybe just letting people absorb some of the feel of the book might help?

If you give it another go I'd be delighted to hear how it goes (good or bad) and any thoughts that you have based on your experience (not mine or anyone else's) of the game. That would be much appreciated.

Cheers,
Gregor
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Tomas HVM
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« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2008, 09:57:52 AM »

I disagree with Ron, heartily! The advice you have gotten here, Paul, is yours to sift through and/or test. Good luck in your next carnage amongst the stars!
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2008, 10:59:45 AM »

Tomas,

Please try to communicate rather than announce when you post here. I do not say this in order to argue with you but so I can gain insight from what you say.

I cannot understand your post. It's especially confusing because I stated in my post that I agree with all the advice given so far. To disagree with that means arguing against what you said yourself. Alternately, I provided an additional variable. Is that what you disagree with? To claim that the reflexive literal reading doesn't occur, is hard to credit.

Gregor, have you run into this issue in actual play? If so, what did you do?

Best, Ron
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Tomas HVM
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« Reply #25 on: December 22, 2008, 11:54:09 AM »

My take on Paul's play-experience, keeping in mind I wasn't there and am only going by this thread's content, is that he did learn important lessons as he summarized himself, above, and needs no further advice. No first-play effort is perfect in my experience.
You may have the experience that every first-play effort is flawed. My experience is different. Intelligent appliance of the game method and your own experience will give you a high chance of success even with new games. Strive for excellence!

You state that Paul need no further advice. My take is that he may say so himself, if and when he is satisfied. How can you tell what kind of meaningful advice may surface here?

My take is also that no further advice will be meaningful, especially when phrased in terms of a guarantee as Tomas did, ...
I gave no "guarantee". I predict a scenario if he follows up on my advice, but he is still responsible for his own game-sessions as a GM. There is no guarantee.

Sorry if I came out as dismissive towards your post, Ron, but I answered in kind.
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2008, 12:08:15 PM »

Hey Tomas,

I can say with confidence that I didn't expect the players to be the motor of the game. Matt Snyder's style of running Dust Devils and Nine Worlds at conventions puts the players as the motor. I tried this with Nine Worlds at Origins this year and realized it doesn't suit me. In Nicotine Girls, My Life with Master, and Acts of Evil, the GM is an active force relative to the players. In Bacchanal, the system delivers the adversity. I don't design games where the GM can be merely a facilitator of player energy. And after trying it with Nine Worlds I wouldn't have gone that route with 3:16. It doesn't suit me.

And I didn't go into the game with a slackness of attitude. I prepped the hell out of the game. What I did expect was that the players would more naturally play into the military context than me, and that this would help me get into the mindset and render up the antagonism I planned to own and deliver.

I have two further thoughts on this:

1. I prepped and ran Lacuna last year, a single session consisting of two missions. I think it has similar challenges for me as 3:16. Both games are mission based, and in both the players start with sketchy characters programmed by our mass media with a cool lack of human empathy. So as GM in both I found myself working very hard to overcome player immersion in that lack of human empathy, to get the players to take a partisan interest in some of the NPCs. Ultimately, in Lacuna, I was successful near the end of the second mission. The players were clearly taking an interest in Senior Instructor Snyder, who I'd had blackmail their characters into going under on a secret mission in Blue City for his own personal political gain in the real world.

Upon reflection, I didn't really do much differently in prepping and running 3:16 than I did with Lacuna. Except somehow with Lacuna I was more successful at provoking player interest in the NPCs. What I'm not sure about is why.

2. Starship Troopers (the book), depicts a very internally benevolent military structure, in dramatic contrast to the sensibilities of most of the advice for depicting the military on this thread, and most of the Actual Play I've seen. If I'm right that shared defining of the military context is an important part of 3:16, then is it possible that play can actually define a benevolent military structure, and for the ultimate "hatred for home" to be other than sympathy for the bugs, but perhaps the rage of the Vietnam Vet who did everything his country asked of him, only to be vilified for it?

Paul
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"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2008, 12:36:16 PM »

Tomas, your posting is now that of an asshole. Since I know you are not in fact an asshole, I am formally moderating to oblige you not to post in that way.

I did not dismiss your post. I pleaded to aid my understanding. To "respond in kind" in a dismissive way, as you describe it, is astonishingly rude - bordering on vicious, even.

Absolutely nothing in your response helped me understand you better. Instead, you nitpicked to invent points of contention, as well as patronized.

You are an adult, dealing with other intellectually active adults here. I refuse to believe you would post to your academic colleagues in this way, for instance. Alter your posting and communication at this website or your posts will be routinely placed in the Inactive File.

Do not reply to this post in any fashion. The discussion will continue solely regarding 3:16.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2008, 01:01:14 PM »

Hi Paul,

Your #2 is interesting, but I think it's a stretch. I suppose if interaction with the public were part of things ... although that's definitely not featured in the text the way that fucked-up military interactions (not to mention surreally vicious policy) are featured.

I'm interested in the Starship Troopers connection, and I suppose it applies both to the original jingoistic novel and the different-but-same film. Ralph and I once discussed the difference between Starship Troopers and The Forever War - each of us thought one was boring (and stupid and politically naive) and the other fantastic, but not the same ones. I'm not saying this is some sort of alignment indicator; I know that Ralph doesn't play 3:16 in the reflexive kill-clear-butcher fashion either. What I'm saying is that our discussion highlighted differences within, for lack of a better word, American mythology concerning American military policy and experiences. (I should also stress that we were talking about our reactions upon reading the books as teenagers.)

So ... umm, to disentangle myself from what might have been an unhelpful paragraph, I was saying let's look at Starship Troopers. Is it really a good tag-line or introductory reference for 3:16 players? My thinking is not. I would instead choose The Forever War, Catch-22, and the original late-1940s G.I. Joe cartoons.

I recommend Bill Mauldin's book Up Front, written just after WWII. Mauldin was the cartoonist who invented G.I. Willie and G.I. Joe for the then-independent, even underground serviceman's newspaper, Stars and Stripes. According to the Spartacus website, "In 1945 General George Patton wrote a letter to the Stars and Stripes and threatened to ban the newspaper from his Third Army if it did not stop carrying 'Mauldin's scurrilous attempts to undermine military discipline.'" (Fascinating! The G.I. Joe material at Wikipedia does not reference Mauldin or the pre-1964 character at all! Also, most of the pics I've found on-line are pretty mild compared to the harsher ones in Up Front.)

Best, Ron
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Tomas HVM
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« Reply #29 on: December 22, 2008, 03:30:49 PM »

I can say with confidence that I didn't expect the players to be the motor of the game. ... And I didn't go into the game with a slackness of attitude. I prepped the hell out of the game. What I did expect was that the players would more naturally play into the military context than me, and that this would help me get into the mindset and render up the antagonism I planned to own and deliver.
I read you as such, Paul. Sorry if I misunderstood! It may sound harsh, the way I put it, but in my experience it is very common for GMs to lead games with a slackness of attitude. I've been a pro GM for 13 years now, and still I do it. The "slackness" I point at in the actual play report of yours, is the illusory idea that your players will own the game from the start.

In spite of your preparations, and in spite of the good design of 3:16 (yes, I consider it very good), you had a bad game-session. To me that underlines the importance of initiating the game with the right GM-stance. Be active, lead, include, ally and make use of every scrap of energy coming from the players (in this instance: the joking).

Most players are slow on the uptake, especially if the GM is vague or withdrawn in the initial stages of the game. When initiating a game-session, at least the first session with a group, you have to CREATE the field for them first, and then OPEN it up for their interactivity. This may be done very effectively, within the first 5 or 10 minutes, but with some themes and player-groups it may take longer.

Of course there may be other forces at play in the session you described, that makes my musings on this quite off the mark. But from what you write a flawed GM-stance seems the most obvious explanation.

Starship Troopers (the book), depicts a very internally benevolent military structure, in dramatic contrast to the sensibilities of most of the advice for depicting the military on this thread, and most of the Actual Play I've seen. If I'm right that shared defining of the military context is an important part of 3:16, then is it possible that play can actually define a benevolent military structure, and for the ultimate "hatred for home" to be other than sympathy for the bugs, but perhaps the rage of the Vietnam Vet who did everything his country asked of him, only to be vilified for it?
To be open of mind when working with a theme is essential. Most people tend to go for the popular charicature, and goes no further. The fact that you are mindful of distinctive approaches to this theme tells me you have what it takes to go longer and reach deeper in your games, Paul.

I have played you game "My Life With Master" and found that to be a very strong design. Pure in method and challenging in theme. Very nice gameplay!

The designers and GMs who dares to go further are the ones developing rpg's into something more than it already is. You are clearly amongst them, Paul.

This concludes it from me. Hope it illuminated something for you. Have a nice day!
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Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer
www.fabula.no
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