Reduced enjoinment playing RPG

Started by Rocco, August 18, 2010, 06:32:03 AM

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Hi to all

my name is Rocco and I'm an Italian player, from Bologna. I'm writing here because recently (in the last year and half) my enjoinment playing RPG reduced greatly and, having recently approached the Forge and finding your theories really interesting, I would like to receive some input from you all. I want to apologize in advance if my english is not so clear and fluent. If something is unclear, let me know and I will try to explain myself better.

First a bit of history: I started playing RPG when I was 20 years old, at the University. The only game I have played is D&D 3 and D&D 3.5, mostly in the Forgotten Realms setting. Now I'm 28 years old, happily married and working.

Now the bad part: As I said earlier, in the last year and half the pleasure i usually got from RPGing diminished significantly. At first I thought that the problem was with the GM, having some personal issue and then not really "tuned" on the game. But, having found your essays on the argument I'm thinking that most of the problem originates from a different creative agenda that I have with respect to the other players. Considering our long years of playing in retrospect I'm thinking that 4 of 6 players (GM included) have a strong tendency toward Gamism, in that they approach the game from the point of view of "passing over the obstacles", without any consideration of the context in which the obstacles are placed.

To better explain myself here is what I dislike about our play:

1) Every action doesn't have a clear impact on the setting, nor a clear origin (the GM may know why some things are happening but this is usually outside our knowledge)
1.1) This has the consequence that every action my character makes to modify the setting from an "in-character" perspective almost always fail (and/or is addressed through GM Fiat).
2) Although the combat system is at least "minimally" rewarding, every action outside combat (and in this I especially underline social actions) is not consistently resolved but is usually associated with GM Fiat, again. This lead to some players obtaining more from a given situation arguing with the GM and bending and stretching the rules (this means that a lot of character efficiency rely upon player's ability to discuss and argue). On the other hand I consider the rule as a way to express the "ability" of my PC, that may be (and usually is) different from myself and my own ability.
3) I usually consider my character "integrated" in the setting, with motivations of his own, with his own goals that he wants to accomplish inside the setting. The other players don't care too much about motivations, acting as your character (and not you) should act, and about planning something for your PC that goes beyond doing the next GM-proposed adventure or killing some monster or doing some mayhem in a certain location of the setting and then moving to another one.

What I have said in these points means (from my still newbie approach to your theories) that I and my fellow players have different Agendas but also different Stances. Considering all of this I understand that the problem is not solvible inside our gaming group but that my position and style of play seems unreconciliable with that of the rest of the party.

What am I asking then from you? Some advice on 2 matters:

1) What kind of creative Agenda best suites me? This is better done by someone outside of you.
2) What kind of System could be good for someone who has my creative Agenda?

That's what I'm asking from all of you!

So, to give you more information, here is what I like in a RPG:

1) Create different kinds of character, usually competent in combat but not centered on it.Moreover I like to explore the mindset of my character, how he can react to different situations and planning on why he is doing what he does. Find some meaningful motivation to explain his actions.
2) Ground this characters in the setting in which I'm playing, coming up with a meaningful background on why he is THAT character and not another one.
3) When playing, I like to consider the consequences of my PC actions on the setting. I like to understand the world I'm playing in from the point of view of my character.
4) Have interesting discussion about the setting (usually in a In Character perspective) with the other players.
5) Have a team-work approach to the game, not some kind of solo-adventure.
6) I would really like that the game-world (and the game in general) proceeds in a coherent manner.

Thank you all for your attention!

P.S: just as a side note, I recently bought the Exalted 2nd Edition manual, finding it interesting but with some issue, and the A Song of Ice and Fire (Green Ronin), where i like the setting (or maybe the Color) but I don't have a strong grip on the rules themselves.



AFAICT, your preferences sound largely Simulationist in emphasis, possibly with some mild Nar inclinations mixed in (specifically when you talk about wanting your actions to have a larger impact on the setting.)

*  GURPS and FUDGE are reasonably solid-but-bland, season-to-taste Sim systems.
*  Burning Wheel/Burning Empires are excellent Sim/Nar hybrids with a heavy emphasis on characterisation, motives, and emotional development, (but perhaps more complicated than they strictly need to be.  Mouse Guard is the 'lite' version.)
*  True20 is a reasonably simple Sim system clearly derived from/inspired by d20, so it might be easier to get into from a D&D background.

Those are the examples I'd be passingly familiar with.  I'm sure other folks would have a more extensive catalogue.


you can only discover you own preferences by trying out a variety of different (coherent) games and by playing with a variety of people. It's likely that you just glanced at the tip of the iceberg of what roleplaying as an activity has to offer you. The luck is, you live close enough to some of the currently most active roleplaying communities in Italy: plenty of gaming occasions to reap, so we'll sort something out.
Raffaele Manzo, or "Rafu" for short. From (and in) Italy. Here's where I blog about games (English posts). Here's where I micro-blog about everything.


@ Alfryd

Thank you very much for your suggestion. I will look into the system you proposed.

@ Rafu

Thank you a lot. I'm going to respond to you on "Gente che gioca".

@ All

This is the last session we played (D&D 3.5 - Setting Forgotten Realms):

Our group passed through a magical gate leading to a different dimension. Here we explored for a bit, understanding that time and space were functioning differently that in our own dimension. However this feature was only comestic, not having any real impact on the situation we were going to play (I can say this in retrospect).
We arrived to a strange building, made of a black stone that seemed "different" (this was the word of our GM). I tried to examine the stone but two things happened:
1) The other players decided to enter through a metal door, without waiting for me to complete my investigation.
2) The GM just said "mmm, ok, you examine it, it looks different". And that concluded my analysis of the stone because the GM (probably) wanted to move forward.

Then followed a tiring exploration of this building with a small combat in the middle. But because the exploration was quite boring one of the my fellow player said to the GM: "Ok, we will go through every room, search everything. Just take us to the end of this exploration." The GM followed the advice and two minutes later begun the Big Combat with some "apparently" nasty creatures. The combat was over in 15 minutes. The the session ended because it was too late in the night.

The session lasted for 3-4 hours. And the only thing moderately interesting was the last combat.

Completely unsatisfied I asked to my fellow players, when going back home: "Did you enjoy the session of tonight". The responded "Yeah, the last combat was really interesting". And when I noticed that we had really played for only 15 minutes out of 3 hours the said " That's true but you have to admit that the combat was fun." I replyed "yeah, ok" and stopped the discussion there.

Christoph Boeckle

Ciao Rocco, welcome to the Forge!

I agree with Rafu in that it is difficult to identify your preferences if you've only ever played D&D of the sort you explained in your last post. At least you seem to have identified that that's not what you like. I was in a very similar situation five years or so ago. Fed up with mastering D&D and not being able to really find anything playable on the market (we did have lots of fun with Call of Cthulhu, which we played in a silly manner, never finishing an investigation, but that's hardly what the text suggests) I almost came to the point where I was "done" with RPGs. I stumbled upon the Forge and quickly tried some of the free games around. If I have to single out one game that reconciled me with roleplaying, I'd name The Pool. It does this wonderful thing of basically just telling the players who gets to describe the outcome of a conflict, with the player being able to give himself more or less chances according to what he is willing to bet on a given conflict. I played PlaneScape, Call of Cthulhu and some kind of Cyberpunk with this system and it blew my mind. A friend uses it to play in the world of Harry Potter. From these simple rules you get the ability to influence the pace of the game as a player, focus on what you really find important and just bloody simple get to speak up and decide something which actually takes effect.
Beware, the text as written is not to be considered a finished game (The Questing Beast is though). If you do not want to play slapstick comedy, there are a few things to watch out for which Ron Edwards explains through one of his own play experiences and some more theoretical analysis.
I always recommend playing this game to people trying to find out what they like in roleplaying. If you try it out and post an actual play report I'm sure we can dig in deeper into what you do or not like.


Rocco, it's good to see an Italian role-player at the forge.

First up, I'd better apologise to Ron for a bit of self promotion here but it does have a point outside of just plugging my game.

I'm half Italian and my Stregoneria role-playing game (even has an Italian name! ;) ) has a setting influenced by renaissance Italy which you might find interesting (It contains the Condottieri for instance.) It's also a game concerned with story and atmosphere over number crunching which sounds like it might be what you're looking for.

In fact, I've been trying to research what the rpg market is like in Italy as I'm looking into getting the game translated into Italian.

Unfortunately it's not released yet (September 31st) but I'll make you a generous offer as it would be nice for my game to be introduced to some Italian players. When the game is released, I'll send you a free copy of the pdf. All you have to do is go to my game's site and contact me via the contact form there so I have your details. Perhaps you could try it out with your group and if you like it, tell some more Italian role-players about it!
Stregoneria RPG


@ Christoph

Hi Christoph, thank you very much for sharing your own problems with me. I hope to regain the same pleasure that I used to have in playing games, and I will look in the game you suggested. When I will have some new actual play not regarding D&D (my actual only experience), than I will post it.

@ Stregheria

Thank you very much for your kind offer. I just responded to you on the "contact" page of the site address you gave me.


I've got your details now Rocco thanks.

I'll send you a copy of the game at the end of September for you to try out.
Stregoneria RPG


Hey Rocco!

Interesting to read your post.  I can identify with a lot of what you are saying.  I've been in games lately where it felt like we went from A to B just to get into a new fight.   I've been in games lately where it felt like there was not much of a setting, and not much of a point. 

Still, I don't see enough in your post to try to assign a creative agenda to you.  Nor do I think it is really strictly necessary.  You DO seem to know what direction you want to move in.  You want to get away from serial combats, and start focusing more on character development and setting.   The thing is, you don't even need to leave D&D to do that, although there is no reason NOT to leave D&D. 

A free game that I've been impressed with, but haven't played, is FATE 2.0.  It's based on Fudge (a game someone else recommended to you).  You might enjoy reading it to get an idea of some different possibilities of how to build characters and play RPG's.  What impresses me about it is that the game allows you to mechanically represent pretty much anything you want.  You can be a member of some secret society, and the most basic and core element of the rules can take this into account in a way that will affect your actions and their consequences in the game world (ie having a secret society as an aspect of your character could help you accomplish things associated with that society, such as, I don't know, stealing...).   It is pretty simple and very flexible.   Also, I think it would be easy to take some of the cool ideas of FATE and put them into other games, including D&D. 

Even with another system, you still have to zero in on the kind of game you want.  You could do mass serial combat games in a lot of different systems, but that isn't what you want.  You need to get a game going, even if it is D&D, where you can focus on character and setting.   May call for a new group to play with.   



Everybody: Rocco is suffering of a problem of diverging expectations from his fellow players. He can't "move away from serial combat" unless the other participants also want to move away. Thus, just adopting a different ruleset from D&D (assuming he can even make the other players bother, btw) can't, by itself, solve his problem. Suggesting he checks out The Pool, FATE or Dogs in the Vineyard or whatever is currently pointless (*).

(* Actually, reading gaming instructions is never pointless, especially if those are from games widely different from your habitual one(s). But it's not going to solve Rocco's problem right now.)
Raffaele Manzo, or "Rafu" for short. From (and in) Italy. Here's where I blog about games (English posts). Here's where I micro-blog about everything.

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

The core problem with threads about any version of D&D is that they are simultaneously (i) incredibly individualized, in terms of what the primary poster has experienced as the rules and what they think about that; and (ii) presumed to be common ground because "it's D&D" and "everyone knows" what that is. Which is kind of a disaster under normal circumstances, but if two people who each want to talk about problematic D&D play start criss-crossing threads ... well, it turns into a mess. Plus the secondary fun of further participants posting emotionally either in attack or defense mode concerning their issues with the game (or rather with that title, as there are simultaneously too many D&Ds and absolutely no identifiable "original" version).

So I'm saying, Nick and (just in case) Rocco, until we get to substantial "yes indeed" moments that are specific to each of your excellent thread topics, then I recommend that you not post in one another's threads. After that, fantastic, 100%, I'm all for it. But here I'm speaking as weary moderator of ten years at the Forge, and even here, where arguably emotionally-reactive posting is whipp'd from the room more fiercely than at any other website known to humanity, D&D threads are a lurking pit of randomized menace. (Huh - funny how that works, considering the subject of the game is often ... well, anyway.) Let's keep the two dungeons threads separate at the moment.

Again, this is no reflection upon either of you and I am not moderating you in the ordinary sense of the term. My aim is to keep us all sane and especially, not to descend into too much game-bashing, unless it's kept local to your group and exactly what happened in it.

Best, Ron


Quote from: Rafu on August 23, 2010, 11:46:35 AM
Everybody: Rocco is suffering of a problem of diverging expectations from his fellow players. He can't "move away from serial combat" unless the other participants also want to move away. Thus, just adopting a different ruleset from D&D (assuming he can even make the other players bother, btw) can't, by itself, solve his problem. Suggesting he checks out The Pool, FATE or Dogs in the Vineyard or whatever is currently pointless (*).
I'm sorry if recommendations were premature, but I got the impression from Rocco's posts that he's already recognised a basic incompatibility between his own interests and that of the larger group, and was prepared to 'move on'.

Ron Edwards


Rocco, let's deal with your explicit requests in this thread, because they need some work.

First, your list of what you like about role-playing is not going to help much with Creative Agenda discussions. Although your specific list is not universal for everyone, it addresses something that is universal for any kind of effective role-playing.* I call this something "Exploration," and it's composed of ... well, pretty much everything you listed. Characters in Settings face Situations and stuff happens (System), all in an engaging and relevant Colorful way; the capitalized words are formal terms in my so-called Big Model (the first couple of pages in the The Provisional Glossary lay this out as well as I can, with a diagram.)

Therefore what you're asking is a bit like "For what purpose or what kind of enjoyment do I run," and then providing only the information that you would in fact like to run successfully as opposed to being tripped or otherwise sabotaged by others for whatever reason.

All of this means that I think we should revisit your question. I don't want to plunge into the waters of Creative Agenda talk if you're actually more interested in how to get the basics of playing at all under way (and they involve a hell of a lot more than merely having people willing to show up, as I tried to point out in A year of crappy roleplaying). If that's the case, then I have some specific questions for you, and if you feel like it, the older thread HERO System, M&M and assessing incoherence seems like it's describing frustrations similar to your own.

Conversely, I don't want to miss talking about Creative Agenda if that's what you think you're ready for. But to do that, we should get a better idea about a specific time that you genuinely enjoyed, and just as importantly, that you enjoyed as a participant with others rather than as an isolated or private experience that the others never noticed or cared about.

Let me know which of these two approaches seems right to you.

Best, Ron

* For the legally-minded as well as the hyper-sensitive ... the term "role-playing" is unfortunately a legacy term with no definition and diverse applications. Here I'm referring to what's often called "table-top" hobby gaming and talking about when it does or does not work at a very basic level. I'm not claiming that different activities within gaming like boffer LARP, or entirely different non-gaming activities like therapy techniques, job training, or staging little costume games for sex, shouldn't be called role-playing.


@ all

I would like to thank you all for your reply. Every suggestion is interesting and every post is useful in its own way.

Ok now I would like to say that Rafu got part of my problem. I have diverging expectation of what is a "satysfing" play in regard to my fellow players. And that I realized only recently. Before I got this revelation I tried to understand what wasn't working, from my point of view, in the actual plays we had. This lead me to the Forge, in a way to better understand what is behind the actual play I experienced.


I'm trying to better understand all the fantastic theories that have been elaborated here. But it's something that must be done slowly and clearly. Therefore I suppose that my "exploration" of the Creative Agenda was done too early. Considering this I think that the first approach you suggested could be more in line with my actual needs. I will read the topic you suggested and if you had in mind some question for me, please come along with them.

But after exploring this first approach, I don't exclude delving more deeply into the Creative Agenda issue.

Thank you very much