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Author Topic: [Rifts] -- Who's responsible for fun?  (Read 3330 times)
Andre Canivet
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« on: March 24, 2010, 03:16:41 AM »

Hey all... 

Something ironic happened today, in that I was invited to join a Rifts group.  It was ironic because, while I got my first real start in role-playing with Rifts (and other Palladium games, I also kind of swore never to play Rifts again, because I found the rules and the text so incoherent and badly written that it was affecting my blood pressure (okay, kidding, but it was frustrating).  In fact, it was the sheer badness of Rifts (& Palladium's system in general) that actually inspired me to write my own games, convinced that I could do better (which really remains to be seen).

Anyway, my question for the Forge is, what are people's thoughts about the quality of a game, both mechanically and in terms of the text?  Where do the responsibilities of the designer end and those of the players begin?  On the one hand, I think Neil Gaiman is right when he says an creator is not a slave to his audience ( http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html ).  On the other hand, I know as a customer, I was pretty disappointed when after a couple of years of wading through poorly defined, typo-ridden rules (which one RPG.net reviewer rated "unintelligible" -- http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/11/11645.phtml ), and trying to figure out how to patch it and reign in every new weapon or uber-powerful character class, I finally concluded that it was just too much work and gave up. 

So, my question is, how much is it the responsibility of the designer to produce a coherent and clearly explained set of mechanics, and how much of the burden is on the players to interpret the rules and generate their own enjoyment?  Is this just a decision people have to make for themselves?--is it merely an issue of social contract?

I'll probably join the group, because I'm hoping to get a little more into the local gaming scene, but I'm apprehensive about getting back into a game that caused me so much frustration.

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2010, 05:04:05 AM »

Hi Andre - excellent topic, which has seen a lot of discussion here already.

But please, provide a quick example of play which, in your experience, illustrated an answer to that question, or rather, shows how that question was answered, well or badly, by a group you played with. It might be Rifts or any other system, doesn't matter.

If you do that, then we can have a great discussion here with links and all sorts of stuff. But without it, not.

No one else post until after Andre's reply, please.

Best, Ron
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2010, 08:06:46 PM »

Hi Ron,

I can think of a few of examples of how we broke the game.  Hopefully that will be enough to spark discussion, since I haven't played a Palladium game in about 16 years (a full transcript of play would be difficult at this point).

I guess the first example is the ways we could really mess with the GM during character creation.  My favourite example from Rifts is the Gromek Juicer somebody created.  Juicers get two extra attacks per melee, and Gromeks (gargoyle-like winged creatures from Conversion book 1) got a number of bonuses, including another two attacks per melee.  Then, taking Hand to Hand: Assassin, it was possible to get a character with 7 or 8 attacks per melee, and an auto-dodge, by second level.  Whereas, most characters at a similar level had about half as many. 

Compare that to another player's human wilderness scout, who starts with no special powers or augmentations; just some mega-damage armour and a rifle, who is expected to compete.  It was a situation where routinely a player's character concept could get him into serious trouble, or make him unstoppable, without any seeming method or consistency across the character types.

This led to a kind of arms race in which players were constantly scouring the books to see what sort of bigger and badder character they could create.  Nobody played an ordinary person any more, since everything was geared toward combat effectiveness.  Something similar happened when every new supplement included a bigger gun or better power armour--people would always find ways to beg, borrow, or steal in order to acquire the latest and most outrageous hardware.  This in turn led to several adventures where characters would be stripped of all their possessions at the beginning of the adventure.  One game, in particular, the characters were ship-wrecked and had been forced to abandon their equipment (or drown), and found themselves more or less naked on the shore of an island.  I understand why the GM did it, but many of the players felt this was unfair.

This sort of "arms race" was repeated in Palladium's Fantasy game, where certain playable races, like Wolfen or Ogres, were considered giant creatures although they weren't much bigger than other playable races.  But it meant that they could wield giant weapons, and gain an extra die on their damage rolls.  Obviously, the designer felt these characters would have an advantage, but it's one that seemed fairly arbitrary--again, with no real method or consistency.  I hesitate to use the word "balanced" here, because I realize that's often subjective--but hopefully you see what I'm getting at.  It's like they re-wrote the rules every time they introduced a new playable race or character class.

I remember one campaign where the starting characters were all humans and elves.  As they died in play, everyone made their new characters big bruising wolfen and ogres--effectively, we had a group of monsters.  This was especially true, since when the last couple of elves in the group died, the rest of the group sold their bodies to an alchemist--since in the alchemist section it was written that elf bones could be used in magical rituals and were worth cash.  To get off track a little bit, something similar happened in a different campaign when we killed a dragon, and spent six months carving up the body in order to sell the bones and make a fortune.

Anyway--something must be said here in that we were teenagers, this was our first experience with gaming, and no one really knew how to limit things, or even say "no" to their friends' character choices--or at least, do so without sparking bitter arguments over what the rules allow versus what the GM was willing to put up with.  Clearly, an experienced GM could have put limits on all of this or made better house rules to cover these situations.  It's just that the text of the games didn't hint that this would be necessary, or explain how to go about doing it.  What they did do was provide ample opportunity for abuse.

We'd played these games because we were excited about things like Mad Max or Star Wars, in the case of Rifts; or iConan and the Lord of the Rings for Fantasy... but a group of mean Ogre protagonists selling their last elf compatriot to a shady alchemist for a little extra coin is pretty far from Tolkienesque Epic storytelling (though, in retrospect I suppose it would make for an amusing novel--by Pratchett, maybe?).  Again, a more experienced group could have established a more explicit social contract to ensure a particular type/genre of play, but the rules didn't offer much aid in this regard either.

Hopefully this will be enough to start a discussion.  I'm curious how much of this was just us being teenaged noobs, and how much the designer could have done to educate us on how to play without things getting out of hand.

Thanks for listening,

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2010, 01:12:57 AM »

Hi Andre,

That reminds me to an extent of my own early Rifts play. Given a game where the only apparent end goal was to own a really big gat and wear the toughest armour/power armour, the ruleset allowing you to start a character with the biggest gat and toughest armour meant you'd finished play the instant you started play/finished character gen. Kind of a 'premature ejaculation' ruleset.

That said though - the players in your example don't seem to be weeping when they do this? You might say you all played these games because of mad max and star wars, but really they sound like they were pretty happy doing what they did, which was within the rules framework (such as it was). Instead it sounds more like your the non premature partner, exlaiming "What!? That's it?!??'. And your atleast partly looking to the game author, asking how much they aught to deal with this whole 'wham bam, thank you mam' thing.

Or maybe not? What's your call?

But certainly I had an issue with 'everything, straight away or practically straight away'. Though for myself I was thinking more in terms of 'Hey, how about we don't get the big trophy like, instantly, and start putting a gap in' rather than getting excited by mad max and wanted to engage the inspiration the movie gave in some sort of game format.
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2010, 12:44:13 AM »

Heheh...  I wouldn't frame it quite that way, but there's maybe an element of what you're saying in my complaint.  But there was more to it, and I wasn't the only one in the group who was frustrated.  I remember some long earnest discussions trying to figure out just what the heck ol' Kevin was trying to say when he was explaining (or more frequently, completely failing to address) crucial points in the rules.  But that usually followed a session where a bitter shouting match had broken out when somebody's character was on the line, and quite often we never fully resolved the question. 

The group actually fractured--eventually there were two to three different groups that would meet, each with different interpretations of the rules.  Some of the same people went to all of these groups, and others attended only one or two groups, alienated by disagreements they'd had with other players & GM's.  So, nearly all of us had experienced difficulty with the game, although I was perhaps the most dissatisfied of the bunch, since here I am griping about it :) 

These disagreements were usually about something ambiguous in the rules, like automatic parries and the Juicer's auto-dodge.  For whatever reason, the text was just cryptic enough that when we started playing, we thought that everyone got only one automatic parry per melee round; and likewise for the Juicer's dodge.  The text describes each one in a sentence or two, and as far as I can tell, never again.  Of course, somebody read the rules again, and realized these sentences could be interpreted to mean that parries for trained individuals, and dodges as well as parries for Juicers, were completely free, never using up a melee action.  Moments like that were when the shit would hit the fan, because suddenly everybody wanted to be a Juicer, and the GM's are wondering how the heck they're going to deal with them, and the shouting would start.  It just seemed like a little more detail in the text could have saved this hassle.  But this sort of thing was a common occurrence.  We probably spent as much time arguing as we did playing.

But how much of that strife was just teen angst, how much was inexperience with gaming in general, and how much was legitimate frustration with the quality of the rules and the text... well, that's what I'm trying to figure out.  I've only recently gotten back into regular gaming with several different groups of people--but most of them are fairly mature, so it's tough for me to gauge what was at fault when we were kids.

----

Power levels are an issue, too, as you said, but it wasn't so much the fact that you could start the game with god-like power, as it was the differential in power between different character concepts.  So you get the power-gamer who decides to play a dragon or other supernaturally strong character; and the more character or story driven players who wanted to play more sympathetic characters, such as Rogue Scholars, Vagabonds, or even Coalition Military Specialists.  Then the GM has to figure out what to throw at them that will be challenging for the power-gamer's dragon, but won't make the human character into a grease-stain on the first hit--especially if they get attacked while camped and the human isn't wearing his armour.

In a game which is pretty much explicitly about combat, it very quickly makes no sense to play an ordinary human character if you wanted him to survive more than a few sessions.  It might not be so bad if creating a character in Rifts was simple, but it's not--even after playing a while, it usually took people a couple of hours.  I suppose some of the problems I'm describing are challenging in any game where characters at different scales are playing on the same battlefield, but in Rifts, those differences are vast, and those situations are constantly coming up.  It might not be so bad if it wasn't all so arbitrary--there was no way to predict what kinds of special bonuses or powers a character class might offer.  Many games that followed started using point-buy systems or other mechanisms to ensure that characters were balanced, which seems a lot more rational to me; but that may simply be a personal preference of mine.  I've recently started playing D&D 3.5, and notice that it seems to be almost as arbitrary, so maybe it's not that unusual.

Bottom line, Rifts is a power gamer's paradise--which is probably fine, if you know what you're doing; but the game doesn't do much to ease beginners into the hobby.  The Game Master's section in the core book has about half a page of somewhat self-congratulatory text describing the scope and detail of the game, assuring players that they should not be intimidated and offering a paragraph or two of actual advice on how to run a game.  The rest of the section is descriptions and quick-roll tables for common monsters in the setting.  There's maybe a little bit more advice in random paragraphs throughout the rest of the book, but nothing really solid.

So, without any explicit guidelines on how to actually run a game, set consistent power levels, resolve disputes, and establish a social contract, the game in the hands of some unruly teenagers seems a bit like a loaded rail-gun tossed into the monkey cage at the local zoo.  Friendships were damaged.  Maybe that would have happened anyway as teens will be teens, but it seems like a lot of it could have been avoided if we'd gotten our start playing, say, Heavy Gear or Mekton II instead.

-A.
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Andre Canivet

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--The Principia Discordia
Andre Canivet
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2010, 01:54:32 AM »

I should add that we didn't know about those other games until well after we'd gotten tired of playing Rifts.  The joys of living in a small town, I'm afraid--only one game store, and all they carried was Palladium and D&D (2nd ed., I think, at the time).  The really bizarre part is that now I'm living in the same small town again, almost two decades later, and all people STILL seem to play is Rifts and D&D... and maybe a little Warhammer. 

-A.
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Andre Canivet

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--The Principia Discordia
Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2010, 03:33:32 AM »

Quote
because suddenly everybody wanted to be a Juicer, and the GM's are wondering how the heck they're going to deal with them
This is kind of what I was trying to get at but perhaps missed in my post - your talking about how the GM deals with it. I'm thinking this is a code word for how the GM takes this big pile of mash potato the players have all made and actually wrestles it into some sort of story.

What I was trying to say, and Kevin Siembieda (Rifts author) may not have intended it or played it this way/actually played the rules he wrote, but with what's actually presented in written text, if everyones playing a kill 'em all juicer, then that's it - wham, bam, thank you mam! There is no story element. At all. They are all juicers. That's it...really, that's it. That's all there is to it. There might have been some simple story derived from a rise to power campaign, except wham bam, everyones as powerful as they are likely ever gunna get, right at the start of play. Juicers. The end.

It's not about blaming yourselves as teenagers - with what was actually presented in text, your group played the game that was actually there, as far as I can tell. And about author responsiblity - well, the only responsibility I know of is providing the product paid for and legally whether that happened. Not sure that battle is worth taking up.

So yeah, a random author wrote a text which basically threw alot of obstacles into your teenage group, and teenage friendships...well, they are kind of brittle as the bonds have only just started growing. So I totally agree about your observation on heavy gear and mekton and whether that honestly would have been a better start - as a group at that age, you honestly didn't need a bunch of contentious rules issues between you. Or maybe I'm just saying this for myself, but back then we were vulnerable and didn't need texts where the damn author really had no idea passing on a document to a group of teenagers who also had no idea, but who's friendships and to an extent formative years were on the line.

Getting back to your original question of how much of the burden is on players, I think the question is missplaced. Your question is looking for some sort of structure in what was just chaos. Imagine I wrote a program that generated random rules, printed them and handed them to some kids and then years latter they are asking what was the logic in those rules, how much should they have worked on them to generate fun, etc etc...when there was no freaking logic, because it was just random! It'd be entirely missplaced to look for structure in my example. That's pretty much the situation you were and are in - Kevin just drew randomly upon rules from wargames, changing 'em a bit, which he pretty much doesn't use in his own play, from my research on the palladium boards.

So you can invent a rule about who's responsible for fun. But there is no answer that just existed back then, or exists now. You were all in a chaotic no mans land, but the text kept repeatedly telling you you were in structured civilisation.

That's my take, and what scraps of evidence I provide as support. And I know it's really hard to accept there isn't an answer - particularly on a subject that was to do with younger, vulnerable formative years and what they said to you and what you said to them and old, old regrets about splitting friendships.

But yeah, that's my take. We can decide to make our own invention on who's responsible for fun. But there isn't a structure there already, as if were just somehow failing to see it. Well, nothing beyond the 'premature' model I describe.
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2010, 05:18:15 AM »

Shit... You're right--it is a completely random game.  I knew that part, but I didn't realize the implication...

In truth, it's easy enough to accept as an adult.  As an adult, I know that "shit happens," and that there are really no rules to life; or game design, except those you set for yourself.  But as I kid, I didn't know that, and that's the real thing that still sticks in my craw...  Back when we entered the hobby with Rifts, myself, and I think a few others in my group, were looking for an escape from the random chaos prevalent in school, social, and family life--which for pretty much everybody in that gaming group; or really anybody that age, totally sucked.  I was looking for structure, consistency, fairness, balance... Some kids join the military looking for that stuff, I guess, but for us it was games.  And in a game like Rifts, it just isn't there.  Instead it's a lawless power fantasy which mirrored all the things we were (or at least I was) trying to escape.

I suppose it's pretty unfair to expect Kevin Siembieda to be the missing voice of reason in our lives.  He certainly didn't sign up for that job just by selling us a game. I just wish we'd known going in what it would be like--that what we were expecting wasn't really there.

You're right about the other stuff, too.  I did sort of miss what you were saying initially; but it's true.  You pick your character concept, and that's what you are until that character inevitably winds up a fine red mist facing the wrong end of a boom-gun.  There's no growth or development to the characters in a story sense.  Heck, leveling-up doesn't even increase your abilities much in a power / effectiveness sense, for most OCC's.

Well, anyway, you've pretty much answered my question--and in a way it was actually kind of cathartic to sort it all out--so, thank you, Callan :)    If Ron or anybody else is out there reading this--you have my thanks as well for creating a place where us psychic refugees can come and figure out what went wrong at the table.

I guess what it all really means is that when I finally get my own games sorted out, I make damn sure I tell the players / customers what they're buying and what the game will do for them, and what it won't.  In big, bold letters.

Anyway, thanks.

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
Excalibur
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2010, 07:18:35 AM »

RIFTS, in and of itself, is a wonderfully interesting and fun setting. Palladium's unified game mechanics are a combination of AD&D and RuneQuest with the worst parts of both.

If you've ever noticed, as the expansions came out, classes and races became progressively more powerful. Almost as if Kevin and the gang were creating them as their characters gained levels...

The rules for RIFTS were all "WOW! THAT'S COOL! LET'S PUT THAT IN!" and not much else, sort of like the 1st Edition AD&D Monk. :)

The responsibility of fun is squarely on the combined shoulders of the players and the GM. I think the problems you described were based on the lack of a unified contract on how to interpret the rules. I also remember the arguments about the quality of Kevin's writing and what we should do, but I was blessed with friends who enjoyed examining the game mechanics from an analytic point of view. We were power gamers, yes, but we all agreed to a particular style of play. Enemies were raised in power, situations were set up where combat wasn't the way to win, that sort of thing. We had some fun but it was a group effort.

The problem with a lot of gamers that I've met recently is that they're expecting a movie and the GM to be the director. The GM is not there to entertain you, it's a collective effort. I sort of see that in your description of events.
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-Curt
Andrew Norris
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2010, 11:21:56 AM »

God, I don't think the image of RPG text handed down as stone tablets from the mount has ever "clicked" for me as strongly as it did while reading this thread. Interesting.

I mean, it's reasonable and obvious to think about adolescent experiences having a strong, long-term effect, but that feeling of being fifteen, and thinking "Home and school are uncontrollable, but within the scope of a game played within these sacred rules, life WILL make sense!" resonates with me a lot more than I thought it would.

Sorry, I'm not sure that this post advances the thread at all, but I wanted to chip in and say this particular formulation of the issue is surprisingly helpful to me. ("Surprisingly" being my response, only because I've thought about it a lot before.)
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Locke
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2010, 11:23:11 AM »

Rifts is a broken system and Shadowrun has a near broken system in many many ways.  You don't play these games because of their inherent mechanical value.  You play them for flavor.  Its easy enough for the GM to do a modification to limit attacks and balance characters to make it equal and fun for everyone.  Rifts also has a near broken level mechanic.  So keeping characters balanced becomes more difficult as time goes on.  I have found as a GM trying to run these games that the players generally whine and cry their pants off when you tell them that something is restricted or that they can't use a certain book.

So go into these games knowing that you can't keep up with the mechanics and play for flavor with a grain of salt.
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Jeff Mechlinski
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2010, 02:51:55 PM »

Or take a nice system like, say, RuneQuest and play in the RIFTS setting.
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-Curt
Andre Canivet
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2010, 10:24:59 PM »

The rules for RIFTS were all "WOW! THAT'S COOL! LET'S PUT THAT IN!" and not much else, sort of like the 1st Edition AD&D Monk. :)

The responsibility of fun is squarely on the combined shoulders of the players and the GM. I think the problems you described were based on the lack of a unified contract on how to interpret the rules. I also remember the arguments about the quality of Kevin's writing and what we should do, but I was blessed with friends who enjoyed examining the game mechanics from an analytic point of view. We were power gamers, yes, but we all agreed to a particular style of play. Enemies were raised in power, situations were set up where combat wasn't the way to win, that sort of thing. We had some fun but it was a group effort.

The problem with a lot of gamers that I've met recently is that they're expecting a movie and the GM to be the director. The GM is not there to entertain you, it's a collective effort. I sort of see that in your description of events.

Definitely--"BECAUSE IT'S COOL" was pretty much the only justification for anything in that game.  Admirable enthusiasm--but with no thought as to how those parts fit together as a whole. 

As for the group dynamic, well, it was kind of mixed.  There were certainly people who were better at analyzing and discussing problems--and there were certainly times when that sort of thing became easier; like when it was just two or three people talking.  I'm still good friends with most of those people.  But when you got 5 or 6 or more of us in a room, not all of them with analytical dispositions, it became much harder to resolve the disagreements.  Theoretical discussion and consensus building at that level would be met with statements like: "This is gay, when do we get to kill stuff?" by the more aggressive members of the group.  So gaps in the rules didn't often get addressed until somebody's character was about to die and tensions were high.

I think if the Rifts rulebook had included some discussion on how to actually manage a group of diverse personalities, command their interest, establish player roles & responsibilities, and resolve disputes, well, it might have been easier to establish a shared interpretation of the rules.  Games like Spirit of the Century, Dogs in the Vineyard, or Over the Edge all seem to do it; either in some explicit GM section, or embedded in the descriptions and tone of the system.  Granted, these games came later, and I'm sure the writers of most of them had already learned the hard way that some mention of gamer etiquette was probably a good idea.  But, still... 

I can't guarantee we would have listened even if that stuff had been in Rifts, but at least we wouldn't be able to blame the writing for our disagreements.



God, I don't think the image of RPG text handed down as stone tablets from the mount has ever "clicked" for me as strongly as it did while reading this thread. Interesting.

I mean, it's reasonable and obvious to think about adolescent experiences having a strong, long-term effect, but that feeling of being fifteen, and thinking "Home and school are uncontrollable, but within the scope of a game played within these sacred rules, life WILL make sense!" resonates with me a lot more than I thought it would.

Sorry, I'm not sure that this post advances the thread at all, but I wanted to chip in and say this particular formulation of the issue is surprisingly helpful to me. ("Surprisingly" being my response, only because I've thought about it a lot before.)

I'm not sure about advancing the thread, but thanks for saying this :)  It helps to know I wasn't the only one who had this experience.  The realization that I'd depended so heavily on the game, and felt so let down by it, really took me by surprise as well.  I guess the question for the thread is "were my expectations reasonable?"  To some degree they weren't (although what 15 year old has reasonable expectations?)... but on the other hand, there's certainly a question of quality control.  Sure, the game can't sort your life out for you, but maybe it should at least attempt to address what can go wrong in play.  Programmers write error checking routines into their code, to address things that can go wrong; should a game designer be expected to do the same?

Rifts is a broken system and Shadowrun has a near broken system in many many ways.  You don't play these games because of their inherent mechanical value.  You play them for flavor.  Its easy enough for the GM to do a modification to limit attacks and balance characters to make it equal and fun for everyone.  Rifts also has a near broken level mechanic.  So keeping characters balanced becomes more difficult as time goes on.  I have found as a GM trying to run these games that the players generally whine and cry their pants off when you tell them that something is restricted or that they can't use a certain book.

So go into these games knowing that you can't keep up with the mechanics and play for flavor with a grain of salt.

It was complicated in our group, because almost everybody took turns as GM for particular adventures, so no one was really "in charge" of what books could be used and what couldn't for longer than a few sessions.  And of course, every time a new book came out, everyone rushed out and got it and everybody wanted to play with the new toys it contained.

Or take a nice system like, say, RuneQuest and play in the RIFTS setting.

That's maybe not a bad idea.  There's elements of the setting which I think are a bit too over the top, but if it were reigned in a bit, with much better rules, it might be a lot more fun to play.

-A.
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Andre Canivet

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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2010, 04:24:57 PM »

I think Curt (Excalibur) is blurring your own written revelation about randomness, Andre.

The way he's phrased it
Quote
The responsibility of fun is squarely on the combined shoulders of the players and the GM. I think the problems you described were based on the lack of a unified contract on how to interpret the rules.
It's once again come down to blaming the group as the fault, as if if they got it together, that's how the game works and is actually functional.

It's a random game. There is no answer, there is no 'if we'd only done X...'. There is no 'if only we had more analytic guys...'. Curt needs to realise this as well. Hell, alot of gamers need to realise this. Same goes partly for Jeff (Locke), even with his 'play it for flavour' comments - because it's still acting as if your playing 'it', rather than something that's his own invention (and that draws upon components of procedure listed in the rifts book texts)

You can make your own game - you can canabalise procedures from other games in making it. That's entirely possible!

Having advice in a book for how to handle randomness in the procedure - it's only advice for making an entirely new game of your own invention. It does not enable you to play that game, because it is not a game to begin with. It's pieces of floating procedure.

Here's a writing exercise - especially for Curt since I know he'll argue this vehemently - write a 'game' that has a broken procedure and there is no right way or some social contract gimmicktry and somehow allows you to play it right.

It shouldn't be hard at all to write a 'game' that does not work, EVER, even if it involves gripping a pen in your fist and scribbling maddly across a page. Surely atleast in that case it's obvious that no, there's no social contract or analytic frame of mind or zen approach that is the 'right' way to play that scribble 'game'.

Once you've drawn your own line in the sand on what is an entirely unplayable procedure that aught not be called a 'game' (particularly saying this to Curt and Jeff), you might start seeing paralels to that line in the sand with the texts called 'Rifts' and 'Shadowrun'.


I can relate to Andrews comment
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I mean, it's reasonable and obvious to think about adolescent experiences having a strong, long-term effect, but that feeling of being fifteen, and thinking "Home and school are uncontrollable, but within the scope of a game played within these sacred rules, life WILL make sense!" resonates with me a lot more than I thought it would.
I'd say that too - it seemed (just seemed) like a method of both socially interacting in not the most base, lord of the highschool flies ways, and of releasing creativity into a social activity. Also to me it didn't just seem to make sense, it seemed like a way of making sense of real life, without the risk of being killed or hurt or hurting others in finding that sense in real life (and I mean life outside of highschool as well).

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I guess the question for the thread is "were my expectations reasonable?"  To some degree they weren't (although what 15 year old has reasonable expectations?)... but on the other hand, there's certainly a question of quality control.  Sure, the game can't sort your life out for you, but maybe it should at least attempt to address what can go wrong in play.  Programmers write error checking routines into their code, to address things that can go wrong; should a game designer be expected to do the same?
I think as a society we don't allow minors to view rape scenes in movies, or torture scenes. It's for various reasons, ususally only felt but if reflected upon, actual phisiological changes can be identified.

Games which act like they have a structure but don't? Maybe in the future that too will be policed. If it indeed does do damage in the way the rape scenes and such might do.
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Andre Canivet
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2010, 05:33:35 PM »

I'm sure there's no perfect social contract that makes an unplayable game playable, but if the rules had simply acknowledged that it's a group activity and that disagreements are inevitable in a complex activity like an RPG (with maybe some advice how to deal with them)--I think that would have gone a long way to preventing difficulty.

All the Rifts books have disclaimers about supernatural & horror content.  If K.S. had included one about rules disputes and social dynamics; that warning alone would have allowed us to step back from the rules a bit when things got too intense.  I suppose it's just ironic that it wasn't the horror content that drove us crazy, but the mechanics.

I don't know if the game itself did damage like a rape scene might--or if we were already sort of damaged / unstable going in and the game just made it worse.  But maybe it's a lot like television.  Maybe our parents should have played the first few sessions with us to make sure we were okay (but what parent has time, and what 15 year old wants to play with their parents?); the same way a lot of people recommend watching television with your kids.  I don't really know.

Either way, it's definitely something for the industry to consider, especially in the way these games are marketed, and to whom. 

For now, I'm happy to count it as a lesson learned.  I'll just try to do better in my own games.

-A.
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Andre Canivet

Reality is the original Rorschach.
--The Principia Discordia
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