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Author Topic: [Dresden Files] It‘s not Zilch play, but what is it?  (Read 5060 times)
Frank Tarcikowski
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« on: June 05, 2011, 06:10:31 AM »

I played Dresden Files on a convention the other day. It was my first real FATE game. I did like it quite well, temporary aspects were nice and consequences are my favorite part of the rules. We had seven players plus GM at the table and one player fascinated me, because she seemed  to play her own game with no mind as to whether she contributed in any meaningful way to the group‘s experience, and also, because (almost) everything she did seemed entirely pointless to me.

She wasn‘t inactive, though. She was quite enthusiastic and actively tried to get the attention of the GM and the other players. She played a Half-Japanese exchange student werecat. She explicitly wanted to turn into a small house cat when shapeshifting, even though the GM indicated that a large cat might be more useful in a fight.

First scene: All characters are meeting in a pub to discuss the trouble at hand (as it were, Wehrmacht soldiers from 1945 showing up in 2011 Berlin and acting as if the Russians were at the gates). So, the point of the scene is to talk. Werecat makes a point of stating that she is in cat form, thus she cannot talk.

Second scene: We are trying to get into an abandoned building in East Berlin guarded by a bunch of skinheads. For once little kitty’s inconspicuous form would be useful to sneak ahead. Instead, she auto-compells her aspect “afraid of heights” and, for one lousy FATE point, traps herself on a tree  the entire scene (the player spent the rest of that scene literally meowing).

Third scene: We are fighting the boss monster, a Black Court Vampire though we don’t know yet. Kitty does something useful for the first time, transforming back to (stark naked) human form and trying to get the bad guy’s attention, even succeeding in placing a “distracted” aspect on him. As my emo kid wizard character takes a moderate consequence the same turn, I make it an “attracted to werecat”, trying to somehow build on that. But as soon as the bad guy has escaped and I am getting ready to portray some teenage awkwardness, she blocks it by turning back into cat form and speeding away.

So what’s up there? She was obviously into her character, but in every scene (there were other examples), she strictly blocked any attempt by GM or other players to get into any sort of meaningful interaction with her, or impose any sort of consequences on her character. I wonder, what would she find rewarding in the game? What would her expectation toward other players be? How would a group of players just like her work? What kind of game would they be playing? I find myself at something of a loss. I would suspect something messy but then, she seemed to be perfectly happy... it just seems weird to me. She’s not the first player of the sort whom I’ve met, either.

- Frank
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2011, 10:22:20 AM »

P.S.: She also seemed to be a huge fan of the Dresden Files novel and enjoyed a little insider chat about Dresdenverse marginalia if she could get the chance.
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stefoid
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2011, 03:30:51 PM »

Seems an aimless character to me, not interested in the goals of the party and having nothing better to do herself.   Ask her to set a main goal for her character and get the GM to spotlight her when she actively pursues it.
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Noclue
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2011, 11:20:12 PM »

What were her High Concept and Trouble?
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James R.
Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2011, 11:59:20 PM »

Stefoid, I don't think she'd be interested in such a thing. At any rate, the scenario was a pretty bog-standard "villain of the week" scenario and with seven players at the table and a four hour slot, personal goals were not supposed to play any major role.

James, her High Concept was something like "Werecat Exchange Student" and her trouble was "Afraid of Heights", I think.

- Frank
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Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2011, 02:22:54 AM »

I'd kind of look at the idea of imposing a consequence, rather than proposing them. I'd think her blocking reaction is a possibly ingrained overreaction to impositions in her past games. Ie, she loosens up, lets down her defences and someone imposes on her - so she keeps her defences up and autoblocks, prefering the semi solo play she gets to the other result.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2011, 04:29:11 AM »

Callan, yeah, that was kind of what I was getting at with my  “messy” suspicion. But then, she didn’t just block anything that might have affected her character. She also deliberately maneuvered herself out of the action several times. Maybe so she did not have to make any decisions that could lead to trouble and/or expectations by other players? Again, she seemed to be perfectly happy with the game.

I forgot one important thing. There was another scene were she suddenly seized the opportunity to make an impact. We had defeated the villain and the slot was also finished, so the GM was just wrapping things up, explaining that a dying old man with a strong but undeveloped magic talent had been dreaming up his WWII trauma, which was responsible for the manifestations and had been tapped into by the Black Court Vampire. The players were already packing up when werecat jumped into action, narrating how she transformed into human form, grabbed some sheet to wrap herself into, took the old man’s hand, said something like, “I am an angel, come to take you to the other side”, and turned off the heart-lung machine. Another player interjected “no you don’t” and the GM commented that the old man was in a coma and would not see anything, but she ignored them. Again, my impression was that she played her own game, with no mind to what the other players said or did.

It just seems weird to me.

-   Frank
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2011, 07:59:18 AM »

I'd kind of look at the idea of imposing a consequence, rather than proposing them. I'd think her blocking reaction is a possibly ingrained overreaction to impositions in her past games. Ie, she loosens up, lets down her defences and someone imposes on her - so she keeps her defences up and autoblocks, prefering the semi solo play she gets to the other result.

Yeah, to get some vinegar and pepper into your Dresden games impose the consequence.  If the player really balks, they can buy it off.
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Abkajud
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2011, 08:15:26 AM »

Quote
werecat jumped into action, narrating how she transformed into human form, grabbed some sheet to wrap herself into, took the old man’s hand, said something like, “I am an angel, come to take you to the other side”, and turned off the heart-lung machine. Another player interjected “no you don’t” and the GM commented that the old man was in a coma and would not see anything, but she ignored them. Again, my impression was that she played her own game, with no mind to what the other players said or did.

This reminds me a lot of an overstaffed Exalted game I played in college. I kind of did my own thing, not really enjoying where stuff was going or being particularly drawn in by it. I kept feeling like the plot wasn't exploring things I found interesting, so I made my own fun - scheming with the other Abyssal in the party, trying to find a way to slip the leash of my Deathlord... it culminated in me switching sides and joining up with a band of Solars.

It does sound different from what you're describing, though, in that other players did try to engage her socially (that didn't happen to me in my example). I would have guessed she was just having fun being a cat, pure and simple, until that last scene where she demonstrates some emotional connection.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2011, 10:49:32 AM »

I'm kind of more interested in the “why does she play like that”, than in the “how to make her play differently”. I guess it’s possible that she simply did not find the plot engaging. Hm…
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Warrior Monk
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2011, 11:31:33 AM »

With that many players on the table, perhaps she felt more like playing a sort of chaotic NPC instead of being another member of the party. I haven't read much of the Dresden files novels but, how large are the teams formed by main characters in the fiction? How many times do they get to be al together in more than one or two scenes of the book? Seems to me she wanted to recreate a bit more of the feeling of the novels in the game, so she added herself as this strange character that keeps appearing in the fiction on and off, without doing anything important and then it appears again at the end to give the story a final twist, just to surprise the readers.

The way she made it makes for a pretty good story, but I agree with you she kind of ruined the game for the rest of the players. Perhaps if the players were told in advance she's there to act as another NPC, that would help a lot in order to keep the social pact intact.
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Roger
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2011, 02:17:58 PM »

Based on what you've said, it sounds to me more-or-less like the player-side version of railroading.  I might guess that she, as a fan of Dresden, has already written a number of fanfics starring her character.  It's non-collaborative roleplaying.

There's a thing with some amateur writers in which they avoid putting their characters into any sort of real danger; I think it's a related phenomenon.

The underlying issue, in my opinion, is a problematically deep emotional investment in the character.  It's sort of interesting that the character's Trouble is "fear", as that is, indeed, the trouble here.


Cheers,
Roger
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Roger
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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2011, 02:20:07 PM »

Whoops; forgot to answer the question of the subject of the thread.  This is Mary Sue play.
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wholeridge
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2011, 05:24:31 PM »

I think you (meaning her critics generally) are being way too hard on the werecat girl. Yes, she sounds annoying, but both the real world and stories are full of annoying people.

You are, in effect, claiming that she broke the Social Contract by her style of play, but did the Social Contract at a "bog-standard 'villain of the week' scenario and with seven players at the table and a four hour slot" really make it clear that only "Fabulist/Collaborative Storytelling" and not "Immersionist/Virtual Experience (to use John Kim's terms) type of play was permitted?

Worse, you imply that she is a bad person merely because she chooses a different style of gaming than you choose.

The young lady chose to play an apparently neurotic, insecure character who had little to offer the group -- is that forbidden? Did she have some duty to change her character concept in order to make you happy? She also seems to have focused on immersion in her own character -- is that not a valid style of play? Declining to pick up on your openings is not railroading.

Unless you really did have an explicit Social Contract that allowed only "Fabulist" play, you're only complaint was that her tastes are different than yours. That's no reason to trash her. How is what you are doing to werecat girl different from Simulationists telling Narrativists that the Narrativists are doing it wrong?

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stefoid
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2011, 07:30:23 PM »

I dont see what sim/nar has to do with it.  The GM and six other people were engaging in a particular story and each other, and she wasnt.  So why bother turning up?  She could imagine what its like to be a cat stuck up a tree on her own time.

Frank is OK with it, just wants to know what makes her tick.  Sounds like daydreaming with an audience.
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