*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 19, 2014, 02:11:17 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
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)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [3:16] Screw-Ups and Monstrous Troopers  (Read 1996 times)
Brendan C.
Member

Posts: 11


« on: May 28, 2009, 10:50:57 PM »

I'm putting this up here because it's been bugging me for the past couple of days, and I'd like to get some input from other people who may or may not have experienced the same problem.  I recently tried to run a game of 3:16 for a few friends at school; having been enamored with the game for a while, I pushed them into it a couple of weeks ago.  At first, everyone was a tad bit reluctant, as they always are (let's just say I push for us to play new games a lot, and the rest of my friends have gotten to the point where they only agree somewhat grudgingly) but once we got rolling, I think the game started to appeal to them.  But what slowly dawned on me as we played some more was that the game seemed to be appealing for all the wrong reasons.  Well, alright, I admit, maybe I shouldn't be saying that there are "right" or "wrong" reasons, but what had really gotten me going about the game was the ease with which you developed this empty trooper shell into an actual character through gameplay, and the way that the game, for all that it appeared to be a simple "burn all the bugs" kind of thing, was actually capable of great depth in story.  What I slowly came to realize was that this view was not shared in the least by any of my players. 

In the beginning we had five players.  Their five characters were:
- Sergeant Wolfkick
- Corporal Action McAction
- Trooper Jeffcoats
- Trooper Clay
- Trooper Cole

Now, as many of you have probably immediately noticed, there were a few warning signs right up front.  Action McAction as a name...yeah, that was a pretty big one.  But as I said earlier, my players were already only somewhat grudgingly accepting the game, and in particular, that player was kind of a joker.  I didn't see too much of a problem with it, partly because I guess I wasn't anticipating any deep role-playing from him anyways, and I kinda figured Action McAction would die soon enough.  I should also have noticed the red flag from the descriptions of the characters; for instance, Jeffcoats was "Badass".  Yes, very promising. 

Well, anyways, we ran through a forested planet populated with lightning cats.  I tried to utilize a few of the tricks I thought I'd picked up from these forums, like the "make them roll NFA not to vomit on the way down" trick.  I gave them a really annoying Lieutenant, the foppish kind, and then I cut communications from their ship, the Beelzebub.  It took them almost no time to grab the Lieutenant, hold him down, and put a bullet in his head.  Ahem.  I hadn't realized I was making him that unlikable, but whatever.  I thought it was kind of a fun turn of events, and the players were clearly enjoying it. 

But something was planted in that mission, a terrible seed that would grow to become an underlying problem.  Because I had set up that lieutenant, and because, I guess, I had made that first mission somewhat difficult (I think I used an AA of 6 or 7, with Leaping or Rapid Movement, I believe...I apologize for the inspecificity, my notebook is hidden away elsewhere at the moment), they banded together, as players.  They gleefully altered their name of Alpha Squad into Asshole Squad, and they were clearly never going to turn on each other in any way.  I had tried to use the lieutenant to make the sergeant unlikable, by making him take unlikable actions, but they wouldn't bite.  They were now more close-knit than I would ever have wanted.  Furthermore, they started treating un-named NPCs in their squad as chaff.  "We need somebody to stay here and guard the landing site."  "Leave all the NPCs."  "Alright."  Eventually, they sent all the NPCs forward, and they were massacred by the lightning cats.  Even the poor, hapless trooper I had set up, who idolized Action McAction...when they found him with his limbs ripped off, their reaction was to immediately put a bullet in his head and move on.

Ahem.

So, after that first mission, I sent them on a mission to a sea planet, where they were attacked by manta rays with quills that could splinter in the air and create a light-refraction that would screw up visibility.  Yeah, I was reaching, but they bought it.  So they were AA: 5, with the Impair ability.  They had been sent to the planet to make contact with the base on the planet, which had been out of contact for a week or so, and if necessary, to introduce a device into the planet's ocean that would basically make the entire ocean quite acidic, and kill everything.  Command didn't want them to use this device unless necessary.  So, they made their way down through the ocean in a submarine after a short encounter with the mantas.  In the base, they discovered that the denizens of the base had somehow become infected by the quills, and had started using them as a narcotic substance.  Due to such use, the people in the base would grow quills on themselves.  Over cries of "Evil Dolphin Hive Mind" (yes, the cries were about dolphins, even though they had been mantas), I tried to convey that the quill-users were relatively peaceful, but they of course massacred everyone.  Which I sort of expected.  But again, any attempts on my part to divide the group were far less than successful, including an attempt to try to get one of them to stay behind and detonate the device.  I had also introduced a new trooper into their squad, Trooper Carson, who was calm, cold, and by-the-books.  I had also introduced Lieutenant Petrov, who was cold, fierce, and aptly enough, Russian.  These two new characters, for all that I was trying to use them to get the military atmosphere, simply further pushed the players into each others' arms.

Well, the adventures of Asshole squad continued for several more missions.  I slowly tried to reveal a plotline in which there were humans with similar technology to that of the 3:16 who were aiding the aliens.  Eventually, these humans would turn out to be the remnants of the 3:15, who had joined the alien Stellar Union once they had realized that the Union was peaceful and the best hope for the advancement of civilization.  Earth, of course, considered the Union a threat, and wanted it annihilated.  So while the Union kept trying to observe new species, potentially for induction into the Union, the 3:16 kept going on missions that would inevitably lead them to cross paths with the 3:15 forces in one way or another.  Of course, my reveals of this plotline took place with several rather blatant clues and plot hooks, which were not unnoticed by the players, and were often identified as such..."Oh look, there's the giant massive plothook...I mean, ship downed by weapons similar to our own."  "Hello, man-hiding-in-locker and only-survivor-of-attack.  Can I call you Mr. Infodump?" 

To be honest, I introduced this plotline because it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to generate any kind of cohesive story asides from "KILL EVERYTHING" with just the players.  Or at least, that's how it felt from my chair.  They weren't going to turn on each other, they weren't going to act in interesting fashions...they were just going to team up and take down every threat I threw at them.

So what was happening, for all that I really hadn't wanted it to happen, was that the players were beginning to take on a very "Us vs. the GM" mentality.  I was the one putting threat counters on the mat, I was the one creating NPCs who would inevitably be problematic for the players, even if I hadn't meant for them to be, just because they might object to the players' plans.  Maybe the players would disagree, but to me, it started to lose the feel of a collaborative story-telling effort, and started taking on the feel of an adversarial game. 

For the purposes of full disclosure, none of the above was helped by the fact that, due to factors of players dropping in and out as time constraints allowed, there was a relatively fluctuating cast of characters and players, which of course screwed up the Strength and Weakness economy.  Furthermore, Sergeant Wolfkick, who had started with 7 NFA and 3 FA, consistently rolled highest for leveling up, and as a result, quickly became absurdly powerful, with a 9 NFA and a quite workable FA.  To his credit, the player refused to go all the way to 10 NFA, so that there would always be a chance of failure; I thought that was a nice concession.  But in the end, he became extraordinarily powerful, with a small reserve of strengths and weaknesses built up.  So, the large number of different characters, each allowing for additional strengths and weaknesses, and each adding to the overall number of dice the players were rolling in every conflict, helped make it that much harder for me to deal any significant damage.  So basically, no one died.  I can see now that this was one of my biggest mistakes, but because no one died at all, everybody began to adopt a mentality much more suited to, say, D&D, in which each player was attached to his character, and didn't want him to die.  Character death became quite a big punishment; I found this out in particular when I tried a silly little stunt on a planet of koala creatures who had managed to get a planet-bomb from the 3:15, and were using it to try to threaten the 3:16 with mutual destruction if the 3:16 didn't leave.  The koalas triggered the bomb, and after a short series of NFA rolls, everybody escaped...except for one guy.  And he got so upset, because it was the first time he had gotten the most kills, and it was the first time he would level up...and I really didn't want to kill him, as a result.  So I let him use a weakness, which in the end, I think might still have been appropriate.  But the mentality had even infected me.  For all the good advice in the book about being ruthless, not pulling punches...just as the players had grown attached to their characters, I didn't want to ruin their enjoyment by taking those characters away. 

Now, I will also admit, we did a total of about 8 or 9 missions, and then, due to school coming to a close, we brought the campaign to a close.  So maybe some of these issues would have solved themselves over continued play.  But all I knew was that as we came into the end couple missions, and I tried to bring the overarching plot line to a close, I had gotten kind of fed up with the play that was going on.  The players knew that no matter how many counters I stacked against them, they had but to use a strength, and WHOOSH!  Stack gone.  So what if you had to come up with a flashback?  Who cared?  The fact that it got rid of threat tokens was all that mattered.  Every time a strength or a weakness would be used, I would be sitting there, screeching, "Come up with a flashback!"  And of course, I would have to further feel myself in this role of the Adversary every time a player would come up with some ridiculous, psychotic flashback that was absolutely loathsome to whatever roleplaying instincts there are in my body, and I would tell him to come up with another one instead.  As an example...ahem..."Okay, so, back on earth, I killed my wife and my two children with a knife, so my strength is, Knows How to Deal with Greater Numbers".  Maybe I should have let it go...but it just felt so freaking wrong.  One of the other ones that drove me up a wall was the weakness, "Afraid of Failure".  He was supposed to have been so afraid of failing the rest of his squad, that he had to run from combat to get more equipped so he could come back.  As much as that doesn't seem too bad, it felt at the time like when, in an interview, someone is asked "What would you say your biggest flaw is?" and the interviewee responds "My biggest flaw is that I'm too awesome."  His weakness was that he's so driven to succeed for the sake of his fellow teammates, that he had to go and get better equipped, so he could come back and rejoin the fight.  At the time, I let it go, because we were in the home stretch, and I was just getting too tired to worry about it.

Well, anyways, we got into those last couple missions...Things actually went as you might expect.  3:15 got in touch with the players, finally...Captain Wolfkick agreed to take down the Brigadier...And Asshole Squad was off.  And that's when I kind of lost it.  I will admit, in retrospect, I seem to have gotten very much into a killer GM mode.  I assaulted them with an AA of 10 and lasting wounds, and encounter after encounter after encounter, rationing my threat tokens very carefully.  Basically, I murdered them, one by one, eating through their entire supply of weaknesses and strengths, until they were all dead.  And clearly, none of them enjoyed that ending.  Even I didn't, shortly after I got over that rush of "WOOHOO!  I FINALLY BEAT THEM!"  I can fully admit, that was a pretty big screw-up.  If nothing else, I should have tried to end the game with something the players would enjoy.  But I was too seized with the revenge urge. 

So, to boil down to the specific questions:
1) How do you get the players to interact with each other a little bit more...competitively?  I couldn't manage to do it, even with constant prodding.  "Use your grenades," "You know you can use Force Weakness, right?", "He used a weakness, you could try to get him demoted", all failed.  "If you kill the highest rank PC, you can get promoted if you're the next highest rank PC," got some intrigued looks, but in the end, nothing came of it.  So how do you get the players to not band together so tightly?  Or should that not even be a concern of the game?
2) How do you avoid the "Players vs. GM" mentality?  How do you prevent the players from seeing you as their opposition in the game, as opposed to, I don't know, a fellow player who just fills a different role?  Or again...is that an unimportant concern for this game?  Should the GM actually be viewed as the adversary?
3) How do you bring out more depth in the players?  Is it just a matter of who you play with, either it's there or it isn't?  Or are there techniques that an amateur like myself doesn't know for bringing more thought and depth out of play that begins kinda silly and unserious? 
4) This is perhaps one of the biggest ones that's been bugging me, just about RPGs in general, for a long time.  I know it's a big issue that's probably been discussed plenty of places elsewhere, but I thought I'd bring it up anyways.  As a GM, where do your responsibilities lie?  Is your job to make the game as enjoyable as possible for the players?  Is your job to make the game the best it can be, within the possibilities of the system and what that system's goals seem to be?  Should I have basically just ended the game earlier, if I wasn't enjoying it as much, even if the players were?  Because I think that's one of the most confusing elements to me.  For the most part, the players enjoyed the way we played the game.  It wasn't at all what I got from the book, wasn't at all the type of game that I had originally envisioned playing, but they were enjoying it.  I...was enjoying the fact that they were enjoying it.  Is that all that matters? 

Sorry about the long post and the multiple, long questions...But this play experience has been kinda bugging me for a bit now, just because I don't know what to make of it, whether it was a complete failure, whether there was anything I could've done to salvage it (besides not going all killer-psycho GM at the end, there).  Any input you guys could give me would be great.  Thanks!
Logged
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1970


WWW
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2009, 11:37:14 AM »

Quote
1) How do you get the players to interact with each other a little bit more...competitively?  I couldn't manage to do it, even with constant prodding.  "Use your grenades," "You know you can use Force Weakness, right?", "He used a weakness, you could try to get him demoted", all failed.  "If you kill the highest rank PC, you can get promoted if you're the next highest rank PC," got some intrigued looks, but in the end, nothing came of it.  So how do you get the players to not band together so tightly?  Or should that not even be a concern of the game?

Sometimes, you just can't. The best way I've found is to put it out to them up front that competition between the players is not only acceptable, but considered a good way to play. If they don't want to though, they won't. I've managed to find that cohesive squad is a very good method of playing, if you're into that. It also seems to be the default method when dealing with real-world military types.

Quote
2) How do you avoid the "Players vs. GM" mentality?  How do you prevent the players from seeing you as their opposition in the game, as opposed to, I don't know, a fellow player who just fills a different role?  Or again...is that an unimportant concern for this game?  Should the GM actually be viewed as the adversary?

Don't be just adversarial. Play the LT that may disapprove of their actions, but defends his boys to the brass simply because they're his boys... And takes the fall for it. Play that hero-worshipping young trooper. Play that guy that is more loyal to the squad than even the PC squaddies. Or, don't. The GM-as-adversary is a time-honored role. Embrace it.. But make a choice either way. You felt bad at the end because you were trying to be "one of the guys" then turned on them, and slaughtered them.

Quote
3) How do you bring out more depth in the players?  Is it just a matter of who you play with, either it's there or it isn't?  Or are there techniques that an amateur like myself doesn't know for bringing more thought and depth out of play that begins kinda silly and unserious? 

It's a matter of who you play with, by and large. You should have been okay with their style of play, and followed their lead... Or told them you weren't, and discussed it.. Or simply said "okay guys. It's been fun. How about we play something else?" Getting upset with them for not playing the way you wanted them to play was a mistake, and it ended up not being fun for anyone. I've always been a proponent of the idea that the GM should be the player characters' biggest fan, even when he's in a purely adversarial role. You obviously thought the player characters were distasteful, even if you didn't necessarily feel the same about the players.

Quote
4) This is perhaps one of the biggest ones that's been bugging me, just about RPGs in general, for a long time.  I know it's a big issue that's probably been discussed plenty of places elsewhere, but I thought I'd bring it up anyways.  As a GM, where do your responsibilities lie?  Is your job to make the game as enjoyable as possible for the players?  Is your job to make the game the best it can be, within the possibilities of the system and what that system's goals seem to be?  Should I have basically just ended the game earlier, if I wasn't enjoying it as much, even if the players were?  Because I think that's one of the most confusing elements to me.  For the most part, the players enjoyed the way we played the game.  It wasn't at all what I got from the book, wasn't at all the type of game that I had originally envisioned playing, but they were enjoying it.  I...was enjoying the fact that they were enjoying it.  Is that all that matters?

If you're not enjoying the game, you will poison it for the others. This is true whether you're a player, or a GM. Maybe it's more true as a GM, I dunno. I believe the slangy name tossed around is Typhoid Mary. You need to find your enjoyment, your enthusiasm, or end it. Tell your fellow players that you're gonna call it quits on this game, because you're not having fun. I killed my last serious gaming group that way, because I allowed my frustration for the in-game events to come to a head so I exploded. We played together for a while longer, but I really believe that was the death knell.

3:16 is capable of differing agendas. I don't mean GNS. Playing the corruption of the military angle is one. Playing the squad -vs- the Universe is another. Playing the gritty War is Hell angle is yet another. There's the wahoo, machismo-driven gun-totin' kill-em-all game, and the climbing up the ranks, growing more and more sickened by what you find game. There's the game where your superiors start having 'accidents', and the game where your original squad become the Colonels of the 3:16, turning the fleet back to take out the bloated, decadent planet which turned its young heroes out to die alone and afraid in the darkest reaches of space.

All of that is there in the book, if you read it right. You've just either got to be flexible enough to play along with the group and still have fun, or make sure you're on the same page up front. This is generally true of all RPGs, but I think it's moreso for 3:16 than many others, simply because of how the game works, what the rules and setting can and do encourage.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2009, 11:58:48 AM »

Hiya,

I think my comments are close in content to Lance's but I'm taking it from a different conceptual angle: purely social.

The warning signs to me are not the names like Action McAction. Those might be light-hearted details scribbled upon an otherwise serious participant's character. I should clarify what I mean by "serious" - not arms folded, frowning, cerebral, but rather committed to being there, engaging in what there is to engage with, and having fun with the others involved.

I know some folks I won't see movies with. They aren't there to watch the movie. They're there to be at the movie in a way they like, which is to mock it and yell at it and laugh at anyone who's trying to watch it. In fact, unless someone is there trying to do that, they'd probably do something else.

The warning signs in your post, as I see them, lie here:

Quote
... I pushed them into it a couple of weeks ago.  At first, everyone was a tad bit reluctant, as they always are (let's just say I push for us to play new games a lot, and the rest of my friends have gotten to the point where they only agree somewhat grudgingly) ...

Already, I think there is absolutely no point in discussing the details of 3:16 or indeed of any game you brought to push them into playing. At the risk of characterizing people I don't know (and acknowledging that I'm shooting for about 60% accuracy), they already have the script down. You push them. They grumble. You won't shut up. They accede. You manage way past your share of setting everything up and explaining things. They participate in such a way as to show you that they don't really care. You enthusiastically begin to play, hoping they're really into it this time (after all, they made characters, right? Cool! Maybe this time!). They totally yank your chain and enjoy making you miserable (after all, maybe you'll get it this time).

They do not want to role-play with you. Or rather, what makes it fun is seeing you get disappointed. (Remember: 60% accuracy is what I'm after. If this matches even to that extent, that's what I mean, so there's no point in saying that Bob or Doug isn't as bad about it as Jim or Steve, or that they enjoyed Game X marginally more, or whatever).

Again, I don't think this is about 3:16. There isn't any "how I can get them to like it," "how can I GM so they will enjoy it the way I want to enjoy it." They may well be past that entirely.

In this sense, then yeah, the game would be appealing to them for all the wrong reasons, and I say "wrong" because it's not about Creative Agenda (in which differing views are valid, merely incompatible), it's about how humans treat humans. And as far as I can tell, that'd be the case for whatever game-they-never-heard-of that you brandish in their faces.

I mean, if you want to keep being their doormat, I guess you can continue. No specific technique, no "how to GM" action will solve that issue. In jargon terms, the Social Contract level exceeds and subsumes all the others, so if "make you miserable" is part of their Social Contract, it overrides any consideration at the smaller/internal/subordinate levels of how role-playing works.

How to solve it? At that Social Contract level. They are doing something that you specifically do not find fun, and not "how they play," but how they treat you. Any discussion about the details or styles of play would be a diversion from that topic and a blind alley. And unless I miss my guess, you are doing something they specifically do not find fun, which is to keep showing up with these damned games they do not like, do not care about, and do not want to play.

It seems to me that if you and they can have a discussion in which those disliked things get a full and fair exposure, then you'll discover whether you and they should be playing together at all. Maybe it's possible, if those things can get resolved.

I do not pretend to be diagnosing your situation from afar. I'm describing a possibility. If it is consistent with reality (which you have access to in this case and I do not) even to 60%, then what I'm saying may be helpful. If I'm under that percent, which is to say totally off-base, let me know.

Best, Ron
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2009, 04:41:49 PM »

Hello Erebus,

I'm rather thinking it's a doormat situation the other way around (as well?). Even if the player thinks they are roleplaying but you don't think it's roleplay, then your saying it's not roleplay? Eg,
Quote
..."Okay, so, back on earth, I killed my wife and my two children with a knife, so my strength is, Knows How to Deal with Greater Numbers". 

Yeah, I know they are doing it for the numbers. But I can see some roleplay there - hamy and hackish, backyard indie comic, but roleplay none the less (and aren't we all amatuer? It doesn't have to be red hot). And if you see it as roleplay, they'd see you seeing it as RP as well. They'd know you can see the roleplay in it, if you actually do go to the effort of seeing it.

Whether they'd keep going on with it just for the numbers, or instead expand a little on the roleplay they were actually giving because you saw what they did as important/actual RP, who knows until it happens? I've seen alot of accounts on here of groups playing in a very humorous way, just joking around, until they kind of figure they can trust each other with like, feelings and stuff, being depicted in characters (and then it seems to dive incredibly rapidly into deeper issue exploration after that - the trust seems to avalanche in size when it started with just a few rocks). But you'd have to take a leap and actually see some roleplay in their 'I killz my famaleez, Iz getz bonuz'. Maybe you'll get that mutal appreciation of RP connection going, or maybe you wont. Roleplaying just seems like too much effort to go to simply to doormat someone - I'm inclined to think that rather than that, while they may be oafish, they do want to RP.
Logged

Brendan C.
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2009, 10:31:03 PM »

Thanks for the comments everyone, they’ve really been making me think.  I wanted to address everyone, one at a time.

Lance:

You make a lot of very good points, and really my only question is just one of clarification/curiosity, in terms of your response to my question two.  You said:
 
Don't be just adversarial. Play the LT that may disapprove of their actions, but defends his boys to the brass simply because they're his boys... And takes the fall for it. Play that hero-worshipping young trooper. Play that guy that is more loyal to the squad than even the PC squaddies.  Or, don't. The GM-as-adversary is a time-honored role. Embrace it.. But make a choice either way.

I completely agree with the “make a decision” point, but what I’m curious about is the first set of actions you describe.  Playing the LT who defends them to the brass and takes a fall for them, or the hero-worshipping trooper, or the loyal guy…I could easily see playing any of them, but the issue in my mind is that I’m still unsure of how much the players would come to appreciate any of those characters.  This may be looped into some of what Ron was talking about, how part of the problem is on a purely social level, with my interactions with the players themselves, but in my experience, I have a far easier time crafting a really dastardly villain or rival whom the players love to hate, as opposed to creating an ally whom they genuinely care about.  For the most part, the only NPCs the players seem interested in are the ones they come up with themselves, and if they’re not in that mindset to create NPCs through their backgrounds or what have you, then they just automatically are somewhat uninterested in the NPCs.  In particular, in 3:16, one of the reasons I saw this coming out was through the fact that the NPCs were inconsequential in the rules.  This could have been a failure to understand on my part, but for all that I tried to make Trooper Carson seem somewhat useful, in that I tried to make him appear quite competent, and therefore potentially appealing as an ally…they didn’t care, because he never actually had an effect upon the outcome of the battles.  He never removed threat tokens, so they didn’t care.  And I really wouldn’t have been sure of how to get the players to appreciate such characters, to get them to like the LT or the hero-worshipping trooper or the loyal guy.  So do you have any suggestions for managing to set up any of those characters, or do you think that the lack of interest is yet another symptom of the relationship between myself and my players, and the simple issue of exactly who I’m playing with?

Ron: 

Your comments sort of startled me as I read them, mostly because they eerily smacked of truth.  When I was reading over my post, I realized that the line you picked out didn’t sound all that great, that it did sound problematic, but I didn’t think it was too, too big.  But then, after all that you said, I’m a little bit more aware of the full implications of what I almost unconsciously wrote.  I’m relatively confident with saying that you got it at 60% accuracy, just because that whole description you gave,

You push them. They grumble. You won't shut up. They accede. You manage way past your share of setting everything up and explaining things. They participate in such a way as to show you that they don't really care. You enthusiastically begin to play, hoping they're really into it this time (after all, they made characters, right? Cool! Maybe this time!). They totally yank your chain and enjoy making you miserable (after all, maybe you'll get it this time).

was accurate in many ways.  I think what bugs me most is that some of my players perfectly fit that bill, and the others don’t, quite.  I understand your entire point with the 60% accuracy thing was that you weren’t hoping to make a perfect analysis of the players, but I know for a fact that some of the players have been perfectly great to play with in the past.  I guess that’s, in part, why I was worried that this entire situation arose due to a faulty understanding on my part of how to set up a 3:16 game, exactly, because I knew that we’d managed it in other games. 

In particular, one of my best friends, who is normally a pleasure to play with, who comes up with really creative and interesting ideas as a player, was the brains behind Trooper Jeffcoats, the “Badass” with the weakness that didn’t really feel like a weakness.  I had no idea what brought him to make such a character, whether it was something in the way I set up the game, something in the vibe he got, or his interactions with some of the other players in the group with whom we hadn’t really done RPGs before.   Thinking back on it now, one of the characteristics of his playing that comes to mind was his constant mentioning of the fact that he didn’t expect Jeffcoats to survive long, that he expected Jeffcoats to die in a blaze of badassed glory relatively soon.  He would say this whenever we would talk about the game (outside of the sessions).  Should I have taken a cue from him?  Was this him saying “Help me get out of this character so that I can come up with one that I actually like?”  I know that may be hard to answer without knowing further details, but it’s now one of the elements of the entire experience that further complicates issues for me. 

I’m going to refrain from going into a full description of the group’s gaming practices, because I have a feeling that might be off-topic for this particular thread.  But suffice to say, as much as the description you gave was not perfectly accurate, it was still disturbingly close to home.  I think the biggest issue out of all of it that’s giving me pause is that I still am unsure of whether the players were getting the most pleasure out of what they were doing, or out of my reactions.  Honestly, at the time, I thought they were just getting a kick out of acting as they were, but now, I can’t help but wonder if they would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t been pulling my hair out on the other side of the table.  So I guess I’m curious as to what, exactly, you might expect to see in a player who’s acting in this manner, because clearly I didn’t quite have the observational capacity to notice it.  I’m curious if there’s a way to tell the difference between someone who just has a very different approach to the game than I do, and someone who seems to get most of his pleasure out of frustrating (“beating”) another player of the game. 

On a very simplistic level, I also have another question.  If you did have a player who pulled the Action McAction thing, who used the description “Action Man” along with that name for the 3:16 character…how would you deal with it?  I understand that may not be enough information to go off of, considering your points about whether or not the player seems engaged and willing to participate in the activity, regardless of whether he’s doing so in a brow-furrowed, grim-faced way or a joking, comedic way, but I am curious about what your reactions would be, whether you would immediately try to talk to the player, or whether you’d only take action if necessary later on.   

Callan:

I can definitely see your point, especially about trying to achieve that level of trust before a player feels confident really opening up to allow for more substantial exploration to flow.  But I think what really got me about the specific example you pointed out was that as the player was providing this flashback, his body language, his facial expressions, his entire demeanor gave off a very “I don’t really care what I’m saying right now, and frankly, I think it’s just play funny to be psychotic and nuts” vibe.  Basically, he was laughing as he spoke.  I think that’s what was strangest to me, was that I did not get the sense that he was genuinely trying, even in the slightest; instead, I got that he was just trying to make another joke. 

I definitely appreciate the point about trying not to doormat someone’s role-playing, no matter what.  But I guess what I’m curious about is whether or not you think it’s possible that sometimes, they’re not actually “role-playing”, so much as…I’m not sure how exactly to phrase it…playing along in a farcical way?  In other words, do you think that there can be insincerity in role-playing, that descriptions such as the one you quoted from me can be considered ridiculous on both sides of the table, or do you think that either that can’t happen, or even if it can happen, it shouldn’t matter, and role-playing in any form should be accepted? 

Thanks for all the comments, everyone, I greatly appreciate it.  I’m getting a lot of insight into what I can improve for next time.

Also, one final comment, just to be perfectly clear…I am in no way disparaging 3:16 as a game.  I don’t at all place any of the blame on the game itself for anything that happened in the session, so much as I blame my lack of understanding of how to run it, or the overall group’s lack of understanding of how best to play it.  I still think that it’s a fantastic game, just from reading the book over and over again, and from the extraordinary APs I’ve read here on The Forge.  So I just wanted to make it clear that I’m not at all trying to point out a problem in 3:16, so much as I’m trying to figure out where the problem is in my own approach to 3:16. 

Thanks again, everyone!
Logged
Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1970


WWW
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2009, 11:55:15 PM »

The idea of my suggestion wasn't necessarily to make them care about the NPCs you come up with, so much as to demonstrate a non-adversarial side, consistently. It *seemed* like you made a few attempts, then threw up your hands in disgust. The point about mechanical implications is well taken, though. So, think about how, within the rules, NPCs can be mechanically helpful. Have the LT give an instruction to set up a defensive perimeter, and when they do so successfully (NFA roll) then give them that +1 to their ambush roll, or their first FA roll in the combat. If they manage to get buddy-buddy with the supply sergeant, give 'em a +1 on their next requisition roll. Tie a few mechanically acceptable bonuses to NPCs, and suddenly they may take on a new significance to the PCs. Or, you know, not.

Re: Badass as a reputation, I think that is perfectly respectable. How did he get that rep? Is it from stories he's told from before? Can he live up to that rep now? There's meat there, if you look for it. Now, dude may have wanted that opportunity to die in a blaze of badassery, and if so, then yeah, you should have given it to him, if the chance arose. If you didn't see it until you were looking back, well, shit happens.

Re: Action McAction, my response would have been "Seriously? I mean, really?" With all the skeptical facial expressions that imply that he could come up with something less lame. If he was serious, then... well, I guess I'd take it as an indicator that he's gearing up for beer and pretzels, not serious roleplaying, and I'd have to make the determination as to whether or not I was okay with that. I'd also be looking around the table, seeing other people's reactions. If everyone else was cool with it, then it's a sign that they're on the same page as he. If other people were rolling their eyes along with me, that's an indicator too.

I'm less pessimistic than Ron is. I'd hope that you're a good enough judge of character that you'd know if the players were getting their kicks from pissing you off, rather than getting their kicks despite it pissing you off. One is malicious, while the other is just general jerkiness which can be caused by many less than ignoble qualities, such as the assumption that "it's just a game, and if you really had a problem, you'd say something about it".

Really, I don't think you're GMing 3:16 wrong. I don't even think your players are playing it wrong. 3:16 supports both play agendas quite well. The problem is that you're playing two different games, and you're frustrated because you think it's just one game. Some people playing that sick, twisted funny game when others are wanting a serious game is the same sort of thing as some people wanting to address serious themes where other people just want to kill orcs.
Logged

~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2009, 11:07:26 AM »

Quote
I definitely appreciate the point about trying not to doormat someone’s role-playing, no matter what.  But I guess what I’m curious about is whether or not you think it’s possible that sometimes, they’re not actually “role-playing”, so much as…I’m not sure how exactly to phrase it…playing along in a farcical way?  In other words, do you think that there can be insincerity in role-playing, that descriptions such as the one you quoted from me can be considered ridiculous on both sides of the table, or do you think that either that can’t happen, or even if it can happen, it shouldn’t matter, and role-playing in any form should be accepted? 

I think someone can say something in an insincere way, and if you take it seriously they may about face and treat what they said with sincerity. There was an account here of a vampire game where the player climbed through a window and because someone was coming, murdered the occupant of a bed, put them under and hid under the sheets. The person reporting it was the player in question and when they said the GM just went along with it (ie, took it seriously rather than started lecturing them about how to roleplay a vampire), the player was shocked at what he'd/his vampire had done. When the GM didn't try and push his own conscience onto play, the player realised that there was no conscience involved in what he does in play, except the conscience he exerts himself.

There was another account in another game of players assaulting a train, the explosion killing lots of people on train and the rest holding their wounded children, because the PC's had used too much TNT. The players still went in to get the loot, and when the survivors saw this and tried to stop them, they started shooting what was left of the train wreck victims - and then the guy giving the account said that there was this kind of moment where they all slowly realised they were playing monsters.

Hell, I remember in early teen shadow run I had this plan to have my hot female character protitute herself for mucho cash. The GM then described - was it a pimp or a trick? - but this sleezy guy and upon contact with it, I just couldn't go through with it. No notion that it was bad roleplay or whatever - just this sleazy guy in a jacuzzi...*shudder*

I think some people could still just treat it as a joke, regardless, your right on that. But I think what was said in jest can also become seriously after the fact by the joker, if its taken seriously rather than being treated as faulty RP. There's alot of truth in jest. But I'm not sure I'm describing this terribly well at all.
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 17707


WWW
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2009, 06:03:44 PM »

Callan, I'm with you 100% on this. Your post makes a lot of sense to me.

Now, how that applies or doesn't apply in this case, you and I cannot know. But those are the issues. Those God-damned right are the issues.

Best, Ron
Logged
Wordmaker
Member

Posts: 33


« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2009, 07:13:23 AM »

I think a chat about what your group wants is definitely in order. I'd consider myself a fairly experienced GM. I've been running and playing games for about 14 years, and I've never seen things end well if anyone at the table is there because they were pushed to it. Really, unless everyone is willing and eager to play and enjoy the game, and all on the same page with regard to what the game should be about, there are going to be problems.
Logged
Brendan C.
Member

Posts: 11


« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2009, 08:59:08 PM »

Sorry it took me so long to reply, I've been unfortunately detached from the interwebs for a while.

Thanks for all the good advice, everyone.  I've got a lot to consider. 

Callan,
Your point about games going all the better when the GM actually takes what the players say as perfectly serious is a great one.  I would absolutely love to experience the kind of games you describe, with those realizations.  But I think that what worries me most is that I would do exactly what the player said, and let some horrible thing happen, but that moment of realization would never come...or if it came, it would never actually matter to the player.  You acknowledge that this could happen, that these horrible actions might be continually brushed off, but I guess the issue I see is that, at least with that particular group, I definitely got the vibe that taking these "jokes" seriously wouldn't phase the players in the slightest.  This vibe was strongly reinforced by the fact that they actually had occasional moments in which they would point out or acknowledge that they were monsters or assholes, and then would laugh and glory in it.  And I guess that's okay, per se, but it struck me as somehow wrong, specifically in that I was pretty confident that none of these players would actually like to play someone that monstrous...It wasn't the thrill of trying to think like a monster thinks, or anything like that...it was odd, "I don't really care" detachment that allowed utterly monstrous action without any sense of consequence.  Which wraps right back around with Ron's first point, that it seems to be an issue with the group and the Social Contract more than anything else, methinks. 

Regardless, I think it's great advice to try to take those things seriously and then to see what happens.  In that regard, I need to be braver as a GM, or at least less wrapped up in my own head.  So thanks for the good advice. 

And thanks to everybody for the comments.  I now have a good sense of some places where I, as a GM, can improve, and of a number of items that I need to discuss with the group for any future gamings.  Greatly appreciated. 
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2009, 10:45:12 PM »

Quote
it was odd, "I don't really care" detachment that allowed utterly monstrous action without any sense of consequence.
Well, I think that's what I was talking about before - they are testing that no conscience is exerted, except whatever conscience their PC has upon contact with situation, if any. It's essentially bravado to cover up what is a meek probing to see if they can author. Loud people are often covering for their own sense of vulnerability. They are probably suppressing any sort of character responce right now because "Nobody would care anyway, or the GM would shoot it down for some reason" or whatever excuse to keep craming character responce back down inside themselves and not let it out.

But the thing is, you have your own handling time to and creative effort spent while waiting for them to cease testing the waters and address the damn issue. And hell, if I'm way off and they are just oafish, again it's a question of handling time and creative effort for no return, rather than it being a return after X amount of waiting. It'll either be an investment for some return, but an unknown amount, or perhaps (though I don't think so) no return. Also on top of that, you may be showing body languge that tries to signal 'No, stop doing that and roleplay, dammit!', thus extending the wait period - perhaps indefinately.

If we were talking stocks and how to invest, I'd say this is a tricky area :) But I think there's hope for a long term return, so good luck with it!
Logged

Jasper Flick
Member

Posts: 161


WWW
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2009, 01:38:07 AM »

For you to get what you want, the players need to care about something. Your group's history might be working against that. If there's anything that might grab them, it's probably "hatred for home". That might not be what you want. Perhaps 3:16 isn't the best game to learn about caring for your group, because the carnage filter is completely blocking it out.
Logged

Trouble with dice mechanics? Check out AnyDice, my online dice distribution calculator!
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!