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Author Topic: Poison'd: cooperative pirates, and fleshing out NPCs?  (Read 6307 times)
Joel P. Shempert
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« on: March 21, 2011, 10:04:35 PM »

So, I GMed my first (one-shot) game of Poison'd a couple of weeks ago. I'm planning on running a con game this week, so I thought I'd take a look at my play experience so I can work the bugs out.

So, when we played a noticed a couple of things. First, the PC group was surprisingly non-cutthroat. Even with two ambitions to be Captain and numerous weird religious practices, nobody tried to do anybody serious harm or hamper them in their goals or ambitions. And second, for the most part I didn't really bring NPCs into play in a powerful way. So the game ended up being mostly a bunch of players snarling and snapping at each other, but with little real conflict.

Our pirates were Roy (played by John), a pagan Quartermaster, Cranston (played by Stephen), a Gunnery Master who worshipped the Kraken, Red Charlie (played by Harry), a sailor, Garth the Butcher (played by Tyler), ship's surgeon with a Dr. Gull-like fascination with torture and surgery, and Silent Victor (played by Ben), ship's boy and a woman acting the man.

Roy's Ambitions and Bargains:
I don't have his sheet, but I think he wanted to be revenged upon a Parson Bickford, who'd had him punished for desecrating a church.
(possibly others)

Swore to protect Silent Victor from rape
(possibly others)

Cranston's Ambitions and Bargains:
To spit in the eye of God
To spit in the eye of the Devil
To live forever
To be highly regarded by society

Swore to help Red Charlie become Captain
Swore to help Roy spit in the eye of God

Red Charlie's Ambitions and Bargains:
To be Captain
To fuck Olivia, the baron's daughter
To live forever
To own land

Swore to fight by Garth's side

Garth the Butcher's Ambitions and Bargains:
I don't have his sheet, but I know he had an Ambition to be Captain.
(possibly others)

Swore to help Cranston live forever
Swore to serve Red Charlie to his dying day (occurred during play)

Silent Victor's Ambitions and Bargains:
To be remembered forever
To be regarded highly by society
To spit in the eye of God

Swore to Brimstone Jack she'd die before Garth the Butcher becomes Captain

I went into play figuring it would be a fairly straightforward fight over the Captaincy. Instead, they had an amicable discussion over what to do with Tom Reed (give him over to Garth the Butcher for interrogation, it turned out), and how to handle the Resolute. Harry, through Red Charlie, was clearly leading the decision-making, but didn't make a bid for Captain. So as the crew made ready to sail, I put forward the Discontentment, with due warning: the crew are grumbling and half-hearted in their tasks, and one of them tells Charlie it's because they're confused and don't want to face battle without a proper Captain. So Red Charlie goes ahead and holds a vote for Captain. Here it comes, I think: two people with captain Ambitions, and several Bargains revolving around Captaincy, one of which creates conflicting loyalty with another bargain (Cranston swore to back Charlie, but he needs Garth for Immortality). And so the crew votes...UNANIMOUSLY for Red Charlie.

Tyler said after the game that he was just trying to bide his time for his own ambition...but he ended up biding his way right out of the game session.

That settled neatly, the Dagger sailed direct to meet the Resolute head-on. There were some shenanigans along the way revolving around creepy Surgeon Garth and his interrogation. Once he determined there was nothing useful to learn, he tried to snip Tom Reed's vocal cords to stop his ranting. He rolled a failure, so I chose "succeeds but to no advantage to you," and said "you slit his cords just fine, but an otherworldly voice issues from his throat, mocking you still." That set a supernatural bar for the game, with this sort of demonic undercurrent to Tom Reed's treachery, and his pronouncements of doom taking on the weight of prophecy.

There was a minor altercation at some point, when Roy burst into the Surgeon's Cabin where Garth was conducting his ministrations and wanted to perform some pagan rite over tom Reed. Garth wouldn't let him, and they had a fistfight, which Roy lost at the first escalation level, "your pride," and was thrown ignominiously out of the cabin.

They sailed around some rocks to ambush the Resolute. The Dagger's strength was boarding actions, so they pursued up to boarding range, made short and bloody work of the Resolute's crew. They lined them up, and those who would worship the Kraken were taken on as pirates. Captain Rutherford was proud in defeat, but had an ignoble end when they took him to the Surgeon's quarters where Tom Reed was chained, and allowed the possessed man to slaughter the officer.

We were drawing to a close, so just to showcase the Cruel Fortunes, which hadn't seen much play, I laid out A Storm, then Divine Intervention. In the midst of the tempest, I said, the divine light shown down upon Captain Red Charlie's face, and the Almighty's message was clear: throw all heathen worshipers overboard, and the ship would be spared. Charlie's answer: "Do your worst!" and the Dagger went down into the deep.



So, back to the issues: the lack of interplayer conflict was odd. I had assumed that the "Captain Question" at the very least would fuel some conflict, ands that enough people would do enough horrible things to each other that there would be some serious revenge mojo flying about. Wrong on both counts. Everyone just sort of pulled together, and the worst any PC did to another was wound his pride. Now, it occurs to me that the game doesn't require the pirates to be at each other's throats exactly, but play doesn't go much of anywhere if they're not. Especially in a case like this where the external obstacles are dealt with handily.

The second issue, the lack of active and defined NPCs, fuels the first: if the PCs don't get up in each other's business, then the NPC s have to pick up the slack. Tom Reed was fun to play, but pretty helpless. Once we got to the Resolute, Captain Rutherford emerged as a strong character, but he was already subjugated at that point, and not much of a force either. It occurs to me that i'd be well to flesh out some of the Dagger's crew--introduce and play 3-4 NPC Pirates with strong personalities and clear goals. The problem I see is that these pirates won't be slotted into the web of Ambitions and bargains like the PCs will, so it will be hard to make them relevant aside from just shoehorning them into conflicts.

A few observations: for one, as GM I held back from assigning the Bargain "I swore to Captain Rutherford I'd deliver the Dagger to him." Mainly I guess because I'd listened to the Walking Eye's Poison'd AP podcast, and since they used that Bargain I wanted to do something different. Also, with two guys fighting for Captain I figured we'd have no shortage of conflict. Now I'm thinking, for con games and one-shots "deliver the Dagger to Rutherford" is a must.

For another thing,  we never made it to shore to act on the off-ship ambitions, like revenge on the Parson, or fucking the baron's daughter. That made the game pretty linear and monofocused, with an obstacle to team up and defeat, which they did. It also contributed to the dearth of interesting NPCs. There's a built-in nudge toward shore scenes, with the breakage and want to fill, but this crew skipped that and went right to fighting the Resolute. Not sure how to nudge things any further that way as GM.

And finally, the kooky religion stuff, while at first seeming all edgy and shit, in play were basically harmless. Nobody really much cared what strange beliefs each other held, and the different faiths became more cute than chilling: "oh, you worship the Kraken, how interesting! I worship some unspecified Celtic deities, myself!" "Really, fellas? Well me, I see the secrets of the cosmos in the still beating heart of a man I've cut open!" "Well, it takes all kinds, doesn't it!" Sure does!" *cue group chuckle* Whatever it was, it sure wasn't grist for conflict or anything. I'm inclined to warn players off the blasphemy rules...or maybe it was just this specific players and their rpg-trope approach to religion, I dunno.

I'd appreciate input on all these issues! Any experience or advice people have on these particular pitfalls would be most helpful.

Peace,
-Joel
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hix
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Steve Hickey


« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2011, 11:30:57 PM »

This is good stuff, Joel. When you were presenting the game to your players, how did you introduce it? For instance, when I've run Poison'd at cons, I've found it useful to set the expectations that there will be PC vs PC betrayals and conflicts as soon as I possibly can.
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Cheers,
Steve

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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2011, 05:19:39 AM »

Play the cruel fortunes hard from the beginning. They, not PC-PC infighting, drive the game.

This includes urgency. They did a LOT of diddling around; the Resolute could have come bearing down on them mid-malcontentment or mid-chuckle.

Also, if Tom Reed curses them from beyond, go ahead and put Accursing into play (even though it has a rule error).

I'm surprised that they dealt handily with the Resolute. Their profile's 9 vs its 11, right? That's not an easy fight for them to win twice in a row. Occasionally the dice will happen to make it easy, so maybe that's what happened here, but double-check that you played it right.

When someone passes up an opportunity to win an ambition, or sees that ambition won by someone else, they cross it off their character sheet and reduce their ambition stat by 1. This includes accepting someone else as captain. In Poison'd, biding your time = abandoning your ambition.

The NPC problem is a real one. I don't know what to tell you about that.

Thanks for playing my game, Joel! I wouldn't have predicted that you'd play this one.

-Vincent
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2011, 09:41:58 AM »

Thanks, Vincent!

As I recall I was hungry to get the Cruel Fortunes out as much as possible (the Walking Eye AP was riddled with 'em). I did roll Urgency at every turn, and their luck simply held out. I remember now that they began play with Accursing, but I forgot to apply it to at least one of the two fights vs. the Resolute. (actually,that raises a question: do I get the X's from Accursing even in PC fights?) And they never hunted for a prize, so Accursing didn't help me there, either. A bunch of Cruel Fortunes I was eyeballing could only come into play if this or that, and the beginning ones never went from bad to worse like they could. Want only breeds badness if it lasts the session, for instance. I brought in Malcontentment, but they addressed it before it could take hold, as per the warning. The stuff like debauchery, disease, madness, etc. I never unlocked.

So what's the rules error in Accursing?

About the Resolute...damnedest thing. I was surprised as well; thew only rules error I know of was forgetting to apply X's from Accursing (to the second fight; pretty sure I got it on the first). Looking at the numbers, there were 5 PCs including a Captain with Brinksmanship 4, and a Profile deficit of 2. That means, with the whole crew pulling together, they get 8 dice (cap hands out all his dice for helping, and they double), vs. the GM's 8 dice (6 plus 2 for Profile). So, an even match, before X's are spent. I don't think they spent many (there weren't many success rolls leading up), but they did spend some. I don't remember what on, but I think mostly to roll extra dice.

Now, the second fight was in their favored arena, so the Profiles were 10 vs. 11. Which meant 8 dice to 7, a fight in their favor. And I forgot to take my X's from Accursing. So there you go.

Again, whole crew pulling together = not much conflict.

Thanks for setting me straight on Ambition. That would've made a big difference, I'll bet. I see now that I didn't read the Changing Ambition section with care. So, what if Garth makes his bid for Captain, loses, and still covets the position? Does that count as "pass by the opportunity to fulfill it"?

About the NPCs, here's a question: if I were to make it a point to, say, flesh out a good two or three NPCs within the Dagger's crew, with their own personalities, ambitions, etc.--even going so far as to do full-on Apocalypse World treatment for them, perhaps--would it be out of place in Poison'd?

Steve,

I did repeat the popular line that it's "Reservoir Dogs on a boat." I figured that, plus the whole process of naming brutality suffered and sins committed, would be a strung enough nudge, and that a web of Bargains would put it over the top.

However, I think that A) the bargain web wasn't all THAT strong; it was predicated on one thing, that two guys would fight for the Captaincy. Everyone was primed to get along swell, aside from that. And B) there may have been some unconscious assumptions from, say, half the players that "we're playing a roleplaying game and when you're playing a roleplaying game you play a party who acts together for each other's benefit even if there are colorful squabbles along the way." So maybe, if I'm unsure of my group going in (like at a con), I should say something explicit in gamerspeak like "this is a game where PVP is possible and encouraged, based on personal ambitions and bargains struck."

Peace,
-Joel
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2011, 10:24:04 AM »

About choosing to play the game: I've always been interested. The clincher was reading the AP about Abyssinia and James Dobbins: "a pirate marriage; knee deep in blood, but a marriage still." I thought to myself, I want THAT. There's an emotional core there that appeals to me in a way no words can describe, the same emotional core I saw in our Apocalypse World game last year, as I blogged about.

When all the nastiness on the internet hit, about how Poison'd was a sick perverted game written by a sick, perverted designer for sick, perverted players to play out sick, perverted rape fantasies? It made me want to play it all the more, jsut because the misconstruing of the game threw into sharp relief the core of what the game could be.

When I read the game, quite recently, I saw a lot of proto-Apocalypse world ideas in there, so I wanted to explore that out of design curiosity.

And Graham's Game Advocates podcast on Poison'd threw it to the forefront of my thought again, and there's Gamestorm coming up, and...well, here we are!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2011, 05:40:53 AM »

Do you want me to speak bluntly to you about your GMing?

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2011, 07:54:45 AM »

Go for it.
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2011, 07:04:21 AM »

Hi Joel,

I apologize for the tease. I thought I'd have more time to get back to this yesterday.

GMing balls-out Narrativist games is a lot more like GMing balls-out Gamist games than people realize. The key is adversity, adversity, and more adversity. But unlike Gamist play, the real-world stakes are much more risky.

In a short game I ran a while ago, a female player had a daughter-of-the-Don type character who'd just inherited the leadership of the mob, and I confronted the character with a small group of guys led by her cousin, a guy who felt quite strongly that he should be the new Don and wanted to "teach her a lesson." The dice went a little risky on the player for a bit there, and I realized with a chill that I was possibly about to GM a rape scene. I looked at the player in a kind of "uh oh" way and she looked me straight in the eye and nodded, then picked up the dice with a fired-up look. In a Hero's Banner game Tim ran back in its playtesting days, a female player stated that her character was turning to confront her two armed pursuers in an open, plains/field type landscape. Tim blinked. "You understand ...," he began, and the player nodded. "Of course," she said in a tone which carried an undercurrent of "Don't try to take care of me, I'm totally into this setting and situation, and I'm tougher than you dream." Neither scene actually became a rape situation, but in each case, everyone playing had to grasp that the dice were going to be the primary determinant for yea or nay.

To play a game like this, the Social Contract is not "No one gets hurt." It is the alternative: "I will not abandon you." The first one says the SIS is going to be kept within limits of the group's immediate sensibilities. The second one says that if the SIS hits those limits, we will all go past them together and possibly discover what it's like out there. (Note for clarity's sake: Lines and Veils are details to be managed within either of these larger-scale approaches; I am not talking about Lines and Veils.)

I am frankly unsure whether this kind of play is even on your radar. I saw the same issue in your Cascadia Sorcerer game: as GM, you sought to nurture the characters in what might be thought of as a "story cocoon," and simply did not bring any of the Kickers to bear upon them in terms of raw threat, either emotionally or physically. There was a lot of running 'round the landscape and skirmishing without information or confrontation.

The above paragraph may be completely mistaken, however. I have written about how I committed exactly the same errors quite recently in [The Rustbelt] Kid gloves are the sux. Pussyfooting can trip anyone up at a given moment and I want to point out that I used the word "unsure" literally, not as a euphemism for "I doubt" or for "I am sure," as people often do. It looks clear to me that you softballed them in this game, and in the Cascadia game. I am indeed unsure whether this is a general thing for you or not.

GMing Poison'd is not a skill I have developed. I don't know the game all that well, and have some trouble understanding how to keep the whole laundry-list of "if then" circumstances in my head at all times. The one time we tried to play it, I wasn't GMing, and play sank like a stone before a single resolution was managed. Going strictly off what I can glean from the rules, and from threads like [Poison'd] Trying to understand Currency and Reward Systems, my current call is that Poison'd is exceptionally directed toward this adverse-GM technique - if the GM isn't literally and constantly threatening the very existence of opportunities to fulfill Ambitions, then he or she is falling down on the job.

I'm looking at your narrations of player-character failures in particular. The crew's discontented and they get to vote for captain. Why did you let that solve the discontent? The discontent is supposed to impose nasty, unstoppable pressure upon the Ambitions, not suddenly evaporate. I understand your logic of the moment, that you'd already said they're discontented because they have no captain, so it seems reasonable that getting a captain will settle them down ... but that is bogus logic, and ignores the purpose of the Cruel Fortunes as rules, as I understand them anyway. I think their purpose is to be disasters that specifically negate, block, or otherwise problematize Ambitions right this second. And your way to use those rules is to continue to narrate them as disasters.

I will address that specific example more carefully because I confess I'm a little boggled about how it was resolved mechanically. You said "the crew votes," and I don't remember whether that's a specific kind of rule or not. What I'm saying is that the unanimous election of Red Charlie should become nothing more than another way for them to be discontented, unless I'm missing a mechanic which absolutely and definitively removed that particular Cruel Fortune from play.

I'm on more solid ground with the next example. The guy wants to snip the dude's vocal cords, and fails. What do you do? You narrate that he snips his vocal cords! OK, that's by the rules, right? I'm saying, look again - you inflicted no disadvantage to the acting character. In other words, you narrated a success. It doesn't matter that you gussied it up with a spectral voice. That is what I mean by story-cocooning, always letting the player-characters get what they want and confining adversity to spooky atmosphere. If you use that resolution option, you gotta find a disadvantage that really hammers that player-character hard.

What all this means for players, in my experience, is that they realize their characters are in no particular danger and thus propose negotiatory solutions that keep them away from the dice, which, in such a situation, are all that can hurt them. Whereas if they understand that you, from the get-go and in all ways, are perfectly comfortable with hurting those characters to any extent at all (and in the case of Poison'd, determined to do so), and if they can grasp that insulating their characters is simply not on the table for this game, then they enter into the maelstrom with their knives between their teeth.

I do not want to speculate about personality and psychology particularly. The only bit I can offer in this regard is to refer to a phenomenon called "people-pleasing," characterized by constant adjustments, day by day and moment by moment, to what one is saying and doing in order to gain approval ... or more accurately, not being able to see approval or lack of approval, and maneuvering for it without being quite sure what it would look like. The compulsive pleaser is simultaneously and constantly both cheerful and desperate. My point is that, as with a lot of pathologies, I think any of us can slip into a minor version of it occasionally. I know I can. I do not know whether this applies to you, but I offer it in the spirit of a shoe which you can assess for yourself.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2011, 07:24:36 AM »

Hi Joel,

To follow up: I do own a copy of The Dreaming Crucible, and I do think you've struck hard at the I Will Not Abandon You mode of play in it, textually. I've also read your relevant blog posting on the issue. I'm not saying that you personally cannot apprehend that kind of Social Contract or are somehow inadequate or not up to the task of doing it or designing toward it.

What I'm saying is that GMing in this particular context is especially hard to get into and maintain. I don't think that's because it's intrinsically hard as a topic, even socially - to the contrary, I've been a bit alarmed by how well a table can enter into it in contrast to all predictions that "only the best players would do it" or "gee you better watch out so you don't hurt anyone." I think that it simply flies in the face of so much of our training as GMs, and even of internalized values about GMing, specifically that we are responsible for others' safety and enjoyment.

Again, I'm speaking about more known criticism of myself-GMing that of possible criticism of you-GMing.

I would be greatly interested in reading about your experiences in playing the Dreaming Crucible, especially those which resulted in grim endings and how they came about in contrast to those which resulted in happy or maturation-type endings.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2011, 10:46:59 AM »

Thanks, Ron. I have read and am mulling over your comments. I've been pretty swamped with convention stuff and life stuff and don't have time to process fully or reply in depth. I hope to do that soon.

I'll probably make a second post out of the Dreaming Crucible stuff since if I get thinking along those lines it'll probably be pretty involved.

Thanks for giving me some meaty stuff to think about!

Peace,
-Joel
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2011, 10:28:48 PM »

Well, this took me a long time to get back to, but i'd like to dig into the issues you brought up, Ron. I know Forge Midwest is around the corner, but hopefully we can get a bit of dialog in before then.

You said you're unsure whether "balls to the wall Narrativist play" is even on my radar. I'd say that this play IS on my radar, but it keeps eluding me--disappearing into the Bermuda triangle, if you will. I think I have a strong signal, and when I close in on it, it vanishes.

I'm steadily improving, though. You referenced my struggles with the Sorcerer Cascadiapunk game. While you're right to draw parallels to my GM shortcomings in both games, I've grown a lot in GMing, hardcore Narr or otherwise, and see Cascadiapunk and the Poison'd game as points on a continuum. Cascadiapunk was a first effort, Poison'd more of an off night.

But just why and how it was off is fruitful to explore! A lot of what you say is apt.

I am frankly unsure whether this kind of play is even on your radar. I saw the same issue in your Cascadia Sorcerer game: as GM, you sought to nurture the characters in what might be thought of as a "story cocoon," and simply did not bring any of the Kickers to bear upon them in terms of raw threat, either emotionally or physically. There was a lot of running 'round the landscape and skirmishing without information or confrontation.

...

GMing Poison'd is not a skill I have developed. I don't know the game all that well, and have some trouble understanding how to keep the whole laundry-list of "if then" circumstances in my head at all times. The one time we tried to play it, I wasn't GMing, and play sank like a stone before a single resolution was managed. Going strictly off what I can glean from the rules, and from threads like [Poison'd] Trying to understand Currency and Reward Systems, my current call is that Poison'd is exceptionally directed toward this adverse-GM technique - if the GM isn't literally and constantly threatening the very existence of opportunities to fulfill Ambitions, then he or she is falling down on the job.

I actually think we're in the same boat as far as Poison'd goes. I have a solid head-understanding of the "adversity, adversity, adversity" approach, but I often lack the gut-instinct for it and struggle to apply it in practice, and Poison'd is fairly opaque to me in that regard. Failing to grasp the if-then chains means that much of the adversity the GM should bring is simply unavailable, because the conditions are unfulfilled or the poor GM is missing some opportunity or other in the sea of Cruel Fortunes text. Without robust Cruel Fortune action, I find myself lacking in material for adversity--the crew are all stuck on the ship together, and the NPC Pirates deliberately backgrounded by the procedures, so most of the adversity is up to the players to bring to themselves, or so it seems to me. If the pirates get to shore, or confront the Resolute, or what have you, then there's more fictional grist for adversity, but we never made it there.

Which is not to say, "It's all the rules' fault, waaah waaah waaah!" It's just to say, that yes, I have a skill deficiency as GM, and Poison'd particularly stymies me just where I'm weakest. The softballing you postulate is right on the money, at least in the vocal cords example. I was trying to avoid the boring old "you miss" interpretation of failure rolls that sometimes renders RPGs tedious and silly, so seeing "succeeds but to no advantage to you" as an option, I sought to make the failure roll interesting, by having him succeed in the snip, but literally not be able to silence him. And I thought if I brought in some spooky hell-and-damnation color into the game it might open up some of the appropriate Cruel Fortunes, but I wasn't able to make that work. Ultimately, though, I didn't know how to make my failure narration truly interesting, that is, consequential.

Incidentally, though, regarding the Malconentment example, A) voting IS a mechanical thing, central to the game, and B) the Malcontentment rules state that you have to give the players fair warning that the crew is growing malcontent, giving them a chance to address the patter. If they fail to address the matter, THEN Malcontentment comes into play with its mechanical effects. SO given that the crew was malcontent for lack of a Captain, voting and giving them a Captain, would seem to nix the Malcontentment by the rules.

Regarding the theory of "people-pleasing"...I'm unsure. My first impulse was that no, that's not what's going on here. But further reflection leads me to speculate that maybe there's a specific species of that impulse at play here, which is: for so much of my GMing career, the "adversity" I provided was bullshit arbitrary fuckery (see, frex my Over the Edge threads), which didn't spur the players fruitfully and meaningfully to action, it just gave them a pain in the neck. the kind of stuff that negates PC success or simply makes them jum;p through dreary hoops. I caught enough eye-rolling, grumbling looks and comments from said fuckery that now I shy away from any whiff of "just because I can" type adversity...and end up with nothing. The really stupid thing is, when i slip into this I still end up fucking the players around (like in Cascadiapunk), just more weakly.

Now, all that said: I did run Poison'd again, a few days after your post, and it was much stronger, not least because I went into it with this conversation in mind. Other factors I credit: me explaining the game's adversarial nature more clearly, the crew getting ashore so they could stir up trouble in town, and willingness on everybody's part to drive toward human wickedness and human suffering--"I worship the Kraken! Bow before the Kraken!" is, for example, silly and unreal, whereas "I've heard the mayor's daughter is comely, let's storm the manor in the middle of the night so I can fuck her!" is very, painfully, down to earth.

I'll admit I still didn't do much to bring adversity whilst aboard ship, but I didn't have to; we had one flat-out traitor pirate (because I assigned that Ambition in setup this time) and plenty of minor squabbles. What I did do was flesh out a few NPC pirates, pulling names from the example PCs list in the booklet. This gave me a small cast of "personalities" to draw from when an opportunity presented itself. And once ashore, I was able to pour things on more steadily with the new influx of adversity-ready NPCs. These all synergized--The traitor Pirate escaped the ship and bargained with the Constable, his pardon for the Dagger's crew. And the aforementioned Mayor and his family became the targets of terrible brutality led by the PC Captain, but also instigated by one of the NPCs I'd fleshed out (Pigfuck Dan, of course!), prompting the young innocent PC to stand up to him and kill him, then get killed himself by the Captain, while the other half the crew, led by the remaining PC, got decimated and arrested in a tavern shootout with the constabulary.

So, all in all, I'm confident that adversity-bringing is a skill that I do have, and can continue to strengthen by developing the muscle, as it were. I'm grateful to you for highlighting the issue, and pointing me to your Rustbelt thread--it was helpfully illustrative. Since reading all this stuff, I've had several great games where I saw my adversity-GMing markedly improve!

Peace,
-Joel

I'll probably do a post about the Dreaming Crucible soon, or else start a new thread, based on how the conversation progresses.
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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2011, 07:00:51 AM »

Hey Joel,

Wow, I have nothing to add. That is an amazing post, and all the more important given your experiences with the recent session. I'd like to point out that you did, indeed, bring adversity when you decided to use the Traitor Pirate during prep. The skills we're talking about are involved in both prep and play.

But my only real reply is going to be the frequency of linking to this thread in the course of later discussions.

Best, Ron
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