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Author Topic: How to make sessions/scenes stop dragging?  (Read 6191 times)
Dionysus
Member

Posts: 47


« on: January 11, 2010, 03:45:47 AM »

Howdy all.

Been a while.
Our little group of players has finally taken the plunge and is enjoying the waters of new games.
We were a very strong WoD/Exalted group, but finally moved on :)
We've tried "In a Wicked age", "Primetime Adventures", "Mouse Guard" and right now are playing "Houses of the Blooded".

Now, "Houses" has been a huge hit. We went from 1 session every couple of weeks (and sometimes I as GM was having to remind people - hey, we're playing this week") to the other week the players badgering me to play multiple sessions in the same week.

They are loving the much stronger narrative control they have (also in PTA), but also having some more measure of "crunch" which was absent in PTA.

The problem (i feel) we are having though, is that we are spending a looong time on the same event/scene and it never seems to resolve.

Perfect example - the characters arrive at a castle and were introduced and told to prepare for a contest/hunt in the morning. That one scene has lasted three multi-hour sessions!  Of course this may not really be a problem as the players seem to be really enjoying themselves, but there is no real progress it feel to me.

Basically asking for - how are ways to maybe limit the amount of time complicating /going into minute detail by players, and maybe more aggressively pushing the action?
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Falc
Member

Posts: 86


« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 05:40:07 AM »

Quote
Of course this may not really be a problem as the players seem to be really enjoying themselves, but there is no real progress it feel to me.

It would seem to me that this is mostly a social issue, where you would like the game to move forward but your players are fine where they are. I would start by just talking to them. They're your friends, no? Explain that you feel a bit stuck, ask them how they feel. Try to reach a compromise.

Try, perhaps, to ask them why they find this part so interesting. Perhaps you could agree to have more such 'scenes' in the game from now on. And if you know in advance that they'll be latching on to such things, maybe you can be better prepared yourself to deal with them.
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1429


« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 03:14:39 PM »

The problem (i feel) we are having though, is that we are spending a looong time on the same event/scene and it never seems to resolve.

This is actually my #1 issue with Houses stated with the caveat that I have never played it.  It lacks a resolution system.  When you roll dice all you're doing is breaking up "who talks."  The dice decide and declare nothing.

My recommendation is to make sure that Wagers actually resolve and evolve things rather than simply add details.  If the roll isn't a Wisdom or Cunning risk then a Wager should be more than just a fact it should actually introduce unalterable changes.

A good place to start is with the Intent before the dice are rolled.  Make sure the stated intent if achieved or failed (as the player with Privilege will decide) will actually meaningfully change the situation at hand and then make similar twists with Wagers.

Jesse
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2010, 06:04:24 PM »

You know, these days I'd actually recommend NOT talking to your friends about it.

I mean, how is pacing handled? What mechanism controls it? It's probably just been left up to the spirit of the moment at the table.

And they are using that vague spirit thing 'correctly', as much as you can use anything ill defined correctly. Having a chat with them about how they handle the pacing mechanic would be like having a chat with someone (ie, chatting to make them change their move) about making a certain chess move or having a chat with someone not to win a stake in capes.

I think you need to make pacing mechanics which do what you want, then pitch it to them that next session your using this when you GM, or your not GM'ing. Sure, they might like the laza faire method. But you don't. If you can't offer some model of doing it which is a compromise, you just have to give the ultimatum (or go with their flow and do what you don't want to do).
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2010, 06:45:01 PM »

As a GM, I tend to default to dictating the pacing a bit too much.  I encouraged my players to give more input on this during play, and they said they would, but then didn't.  I attributed this to my game's focus (for the players) on character play instead of system play; controlling pacing was understandably off their radar.  Plus, they're used to me doing a pretty decent job of it.

My solution was to put a "pacing dial" on the game table, just so they'd have a reminder of their options sitting in their field of vision.  It mostly gets ignored, but every once in a while helps our group speed up or slow down to optimal effect.

As GM, I never initiate a change on the dial, but for your group, it sounds like you'd probably want to.

Hope this helps,
-David
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
Falc
Member

Posts: 86


« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2010, 05:58:36 AM »

You know, these days I'd actually recommend NOT talking to your friends about it.

I mean, how is pacing handled? What mechanism controls it? It's probably just been left up to the spirit of the moment at the table.

And they are using that vague spirit thing 'correctly', as much as you can use anything ill defined correctly. Having a chat with them about how they handle the pacing mechanic would be like having a chat with someone (ie, chatting to make them change their move) about making a certain chess move or having a chat with someone not to win a stake in capes.

I think you need to make pacing mechanics which do what you want, then pitch it to them that next session your using this when you GM, or your not GM'ing. Sure, they might like the laza faire method. But you don't. If you can't offer some model of doing it which is a compromise, you just have to give the ultimatum (or go with their flow and do what you don't want to do).

I don't know. If Dionysus never actually told his friends that he feels they're going too slow, then acting like you advocate seems a bit too rash, too confrontational. They're playing the game, they're having fun and then out of the blue, the GM announces the rules have to change or he's gonna quit GMing? I'd say that even people you only know from gaming deserve a bit more credit. You yourself spoke of compromise. How can you make a compromise without getting everyone's input?

Perhaps I was a bit vague myself, I certainly don't advise a round of soul-searching for the whole table into why they're playing RPGs this way, but a simple "Hey guys, don't you feel we've spent enough time on this by now? I'm getting a bit bored with it..." is a sensible first step, no? And it's precisely because Dionysus didn't mention anything like that in his post that I advised him to start talking to his friends before taking action.
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Dionysus
Member

Posts: 47


« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2010, 07:58:58 AM »

Yeah, I haven't mentioned anything about it yet, specifically as everyone seems to be having a great time. :)

But in other discussions on the HotB forums i'm beginning to realise that I haven't been running the game exactly right - doing the equivalent of letting the character do over their actions again and again.. hence why it feels like its taking so long...

But - something learnt from this - a) my players LOVE having direct input, so empowering them is a good thing. b) making a interpreted summary of those rules might be a good thing as they are not really clear :(
c) most importatnly - to be gentle and keep everyone enjoying the game - sudden unexpected changes will annoy everyone :)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 01:38:31 PM »

Falc, taking a stand for what you want is always going to be confrontational to some degree - either that or your not really taking a stand for it and what you want is getting diluted.

Now perhaps I should have said talking about a new game system is fine. Even one that uses alot of the previous system.

But talking about the way they play? They are playing the games rules (what rules there are) the way they want to right now. To talk about it is to literally say 'Lets talk about you playing in a way, to varying degrees, you don't want to'.

I mean, that's what I'm taking from the actual play account right now - they are playing the way they want to. Would you also say that's the case?

So to talk with them (the talk your refering to) about how they play is to bring up the idea of them not doing what they want to do. That's the conclusion I come to. Am I missing with the conclusion or am I off base with the foundation assessment that they are playing the way they want? I'm genuinely asking this, not saying it in the traditional internet way of 'Of course I'm right!'. I may be wrong and am interested in recieving evidence that might indicate that.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2010, 08:44:37 PM »

But in other discussions on the HotB forums i'm beginning to realise that I haven't been running the game exactly right - doing the equivalent of letting the character do over their actions again and again.. hence why it feels like its taking so long...

One of the things I have learned to watch for with players is a very common "I failed, so I'll just try it again" behavior. For example, in our 3:16 game last week one of the players wanted to get into radio contact with the capital ship through the interference they were experiencing. He rolled and failed, then declared he was going to roll to try again. I had to just say, "Not possible, the interference is too strong. Unless you can find some way to overcome it or break through it, you can't get through."

And that's the thing: make it clear, once the dice are rolled and the resolution achieved, there is no "do again" or "try over". But note that if there could be a "do over", then you're not making the results of failure meaningful enough.

What do I mean? I recall reading a story about how a group of characters had to row a boat ashore from a sinking ship, so the GM called for rowing checks, and the players just sat and rolled until they finally made it ashore -- the point was that the failures did nothing but take up time. When failure doesn't mean anything, you're basically asking them to row their boat ashore.

So try keeping this in mind as a catchphrase: "When someone fails, something explodes."

Again, "When someone fails, something explodes."

Not necessarily literally. For example, in a debate perhaps a new character enters the discussion, opposed to both parties, or opposed to the player, so things get harder, or new/different choices have to be made. Or maybe a character is haggling with a merchant, and in the midst of this someone steals their coin purse: they have to decide to keep haggling, or chase the thief down.

The point about a failure is you need to do something: Change the situation. Change its priorities. Change its participants. Make it interesting.

And by "interesting", I do not mean "used as an excuse to hose the players." Failure should be fruitful, not merely difficult.

Quote
Yeah, I haven't mentioned anything about it yet, specifically as everyone seems to be having a great time. :)

The other side of the equation is this: do you need to change anything if they are having a good time?

On the other hand, if it is being not-fun for you, then approaching the table to say, "I don't know if any of you noticed, but things feel to me like they are moving really slow. I thought of a way we could make this even more fun, give us even more stuff to actually do, put a little dramatic tension into the resolution?"
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2010, 09:27:23 PM »

Alternatively it's actually a bug in the games design that they can just keep trying till they pass. I mean, I could go write a quick design that is deliberately buggy this way and no, it wouldn't be your fault if you didn't make failure explosive, it's my fault as designer for writing it that way.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2010, 09:47:09 PM »

Just thought I'd chime in with the world's mildest example of what Raven's talking about, as a halfway compromise to not changing anything at all:

Player: "After that harsh speech, I'm rolling to intimidate him."  Rolls to Intimidate.  Fails.
GM: "He laughs in your face.  He was unimpressed, and now intimidating him will be even harder.  Say, a -1 penalty."

As far as ways to resolve an interaction go, this could still be very slow, but also nicely detailed and with its own mini dramatic arc.  That seems compatible with what you've described of your group's play style.
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here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development
greyorm
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Posts: 2293

My name is Raven.


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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2010, 10:40:28 PM »

I find it is easier, when you aren't used to treating failure as interesting, to use explosions as a way to wean yourself off the idea that "you fail and that's just that". Once you get to where you're comfortable doing things with failure, to start moderating it.

It's like learning to throw a baseball. The first thing you learn is to throw it as hard as you can. Once you've got that down, then you concentrate on accuracy. You don't do it the other way around because accuracy doesn't count for shit if you can't even reach the target.

Seriously, I talk about explosions, but look at my example from the 3:16 game: that's pretty low-key. But the point is it changed the situation. The player didn't just "try over" after I said that, he thought about it for a minute, then tried to scavenge parts from their crashed drop pods to build a bigger transmitter before trying again. The failure added flesh to the narrative that wouldn't have existed if the character just sat and played with his radio knobs all night (ie: rolled and re-rolled).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
FredGarber
Member

Posts: 95


« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2010, 09:34:59 AM »

To make the sessions stop dragging:
I haven't played Houses of the Blooded yet, but it seems to me to be a scenario where people are expected to do a lot of scheming. It could be that the players are taking their time, setting up the many webs within webs within Bold! that the Ven are supposed to do. Setting up the table just right so that they can yank the tablecloth out from beneath it, with Style! It could be that the scheming is their fun, so don't change it.

On the other hand, if you want to interject a faster pace, then "clock" it.  Have the actions take up a certain amount time, so that each player gets one action before it is time to dress for dinner. They have time for one key conversation at dinner. Before the Count falls asleep, they can accomplish one thing. During the night, they can accomplish one more action.  And so on: they only get so much "prep" time for their schemes, and they have to work them out on the fly. (Instead of planting all the rumors and conversing with all the NPCs as they walk in the door.

To make scenes stop dragging is a different set of Techniques, and I like greyorm's ideas.
-Fred
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Dionysus
Member

Posts: 47


« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2010, 11:30:13 AM »

Thanks!
The last two from graygorm and Fred are particularly interesting.
I'll definitely try that in our next session.
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Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2010, 09:04:00 PM »

This is actually my #1 issue with Houses stated with the caveat that I have never played it.  It lacks a resolution system.  When you roll dice all you're doing is breaking up "who talks."  The dice decide and declare nothing.

The dice are actually supposed to decide who gets to say whether the character succeeds or not. So, the dice roll is intended to resolve things, indirectly. The dice are not just handing the story around.
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James R.
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