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Author Topic: Being a player after being a DM  (Read 1372 times)
Kyle Van Pelt
Member

Posts: 22


« on: November 04, 2011, 08:16:31 AM »

Hello all. My name is Kyle, and this is my first topic here on the Forge.

I'd like to preface this post by saying that, while I have a basic grasp of the concepts presented here (GNS, lumpley principle, and others), I have very little experience identifying those things in my day-to-day plays, and I'm also not very eloquent when it comes time to discuss those things. So please bear with me.

The question I'd like to ask is: How do you get back into the "player" mindset of enjoying a game when you've spent so long DMing or developing games?

A bit of background is in order. I started my RP experience as a DM. Nobody taught me or introduced me to the games, I just found myself at the age of 14 purchasing a book that looked cool. It was GURPS 3e, and once I had read through it enough times, I made an adventure. A friend and my younger brother played it, and while it was in retrospect a terrible game, we had fun, so we continued.

Over the years, I implemented new systems like Shadowrun, BESM, and even things like Ninja Burger and Anima: Beyond Fantasy. I didn't get into D&D until late in the game, and to this day have never done anything with White Wolf, even though it does interest me sometimes. However, I never got to experience the games from the player's viewpoint for years, since I was the only person willing to DM, and it came more or less naturally. Sometimes, someone would run a one-shot, and I'd get to play a little, but this only happened once every couple of years.

I'm 26 now, and I'm finally gaming as a player in a campaign. We're playing the newest edition of Pathfinder set in the Dragonlance world, and I'm enjoying it despite my lack of knowledge of Dragonlance. (I've never read the books, and am just now getting familiar with the setting.) However, I am finding it very difficult to get into character, mainly from bad habits I acquired while playing NPCs. I don't have a lot of stock in the story of the game, and while my character was technically built on an interesting concept, I've not found a proper foothold in the ongoing story. I find myself shying away from dialogue sometimes, and while I have a good time playing, it's not what I thought it would be. I don't think I know what my "play style" is, simply because I've been a chameleon DM, shifting what I want to what the players want in order to accommodate them.

I think what I'm asking is: Have any of you have had similar problems approaching play, and if you did, how did you overcome it?

I've already talked to the DM about how I can start embedding my character in the story more, and I plan to enact an in-game change in the way my character operates by conspiring with the DM to work a class change into the story. (I was going pure Barbarian, but now I'm adding Rogue into the mix to make her more clever and interesting.)

I know I've skimmed over the topic a little, but I'm willing to share more of my experiences in detail. Just expect most of those experiences to be from a DM point of view.

Any input is useful, as I came to the Forge to improve not only my DMing style and game design style, but my position as someone who enjoys roleplaying and wants to learn more about the craft.

-Kyle
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2011, 10:45:49 AM »

Hmm, I possibly had something similar.  It was different inasmuch it was not the first time I had been a player, and that hadn't been too long ago, but I was in a different country and had no idea what the local gaming culture was like, and knew none of the players personally, and it was set in a place I knew nearly nothing about.  That was fairly disconcerting as I had, like you, usually GM'd and would therefore have had a good idea of what was going on.

So I created a character, bit like you say, on a moderately interesting angle.  And I did stuff, and it was OK, but it wasn't really jelling and the game was going in directions I hadn't really anticipated - couldn't have, because I knew so little.  In the end, I took the GM aside, explained the situation, and asked to introduce a wholly new character.  I then went off and designed the new PC, which I then played for a long time and which has become probably my all time favorite character.

So the similarity here is that I had to let go of my expectations, I had to learn more about this group and this game were working, and to do that I had to first get involved.  So while its not a perfect map to your situation, I think there are similarities.  And I think you are going about it pretty much the right way.  The only suggestion I might offer is that it might be worthwhile not putting too much effort into fixing this character; maybe it would be worth continuing to play it as is while a new idea simmers.  A clean break might be better in the long run than trying to fix thid one.  Or not - up to you.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2011, 12:31:32 PM »

Hey Kyle, welcome to the Forge! I have a couple of questions: How would you describe the GM'ing style of your Pathfinder GM, compared to your own GM'ing? What kind of scenes do you play in the PF group? How much “plot” do you cover in one session? How many sessions for a level-up? What aspects of the game do you dedicate a lot of attention to, at the table? When you say you're shying away from dialogue, how's the dialogue between the other players? Do you like it?

You know, I've gone from “mostly GM'ing” to “only GM'ing when I have to” and back to a middle ground, I've played a whole lot of different RPGs and I love being a player, love acting and dialogue from a player perspective, but Pathfinder... Some gamer friends recently convinced me to join a Skype/Maptool PF game, and these people are really fun to play with, but Pathfinder... it's clearly not a bad game, but it's simply not my cup of tea. So it's perfectly possible that the player role has nothing to do with your problems to adjust.

- Frank
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Kyle Van Pelt
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2011, 02:52:34 PM »

The only suggestion I might offer is that it might be worthwhile not putting too much effort into fixing this character; maybe it would be worth continuing to play it as is while a new idea simmers.  A clean break might be better in the long run than trying to fix thid one.  Or not - up to you.

I considered that, even so far as to create my new character, level her, outfit her, and give her a pretty decent backstory. However, I think the problem lies more in my expectations and sheer unfamiliarity with playing the game than with the character build. That being said, in retrospect, I should have probably opted for a Bard or Wizard instead of a Barbarian, since the group's perception of characters is old-school D&D to the point of forgetting that my Barbarian is actually able to read on multiple occasions. (I wouldn't have played the class if I couldn't read. It's why I didn't consider Barbarians in earlier versions.)

Overall, though, if I did build a new character, this time I would build it while sitting next to the DM, so I could gain motivations and goals that intertwine with the plot.

How would you describe the GM'ing style of your Pathfinder GM, compared to your own GM'ing? What kind of scenes do you play in the PF group? How much “plot” do you cover in one session? How many sessions for a level-up? What aspects of the game do you dedicate a lot of attention to, at the table? When you say you're shying away from dialogue, how's the dialogue between the other players? Do you like it?

To give a little background, the DM and I first met when I got transferred to his unit when we deployed to Afghanistan last year, so I have only known him for about a year and a half. He plays by the book, and expects others to understand that if they act stupidly or inefficiently, they're likely to TPK. He isn't harsh by any means, just straightforward. It's run like a traditional D&D game, which is not to my benefit as this is the closest I've ever been to playing traditional D&D.

On the other hand, my DM style is fairly loose. When in Afghanistan, I ran a Shadowrun 3e game (which lasted the whole deployment!), a Returners FFRPG game (a solo play with a good buddy that also lasted all year) and a Call of Cthulhu game (which only went 3 sessions, but my players thoroughly enjoyed it). I tend to give players some narrative control even with games that don't stress it, as it lets me see firsthand what players want to do. (It also makes critical hits more entertaining.) I really like bookkeeping for whatever the hell reason, so I sometimes spend too much time counting bullets or tracking weight when others want to move on to more entertaining aspects like playing the game. (I think Sim play is what I personally tend toward, if I understand the term correctly, although that's not entirely how I DM.) I also enjoy using music to enhance the game's atmosphere. I always DM standing up. (I'm also a Scorpio and enjoy long walks on the plank, but enough about me.)

Since 80% of the people who play are also currently in the military, a lot of emphasis is on tactical combat and teamwork. Roleplaying occurs, but primarily between two or three people of the six or seven that play. I'm still unsure how to get involved in the story for two reasons:

1. The story is seemingly secondary. From an untrained eye, it would seem that the story is a grand sweeping epic, and everyone just kinda assumes that it's pretty much standard and use the story to just chain together combats and stuff. (This doesn't apply to everyone, just most of the people that play.)

2. People's backstories kinda came outta nowhere, and I don't know how they happened to get brought up. During the first session, almost 30 minutes of play passed before I spoke up, saying, "So... what's everyone's names and what do you look like?" The DM clapped his hands and said, "IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE SAID IT," then everyone else started to give descriptions like "I look like a Fighter" and "I'm an elf who doesn't like humans". I was kinda shocked, since in my games I always started the session by giving the players not only a good reason to be in a party but to have a common ground. They also usually had a few minutes to explain who they were, what they looked like, and occasionally devise ways for their characters to know each other (like being adopted brothers or co-workers or schoolmates or something.)

We seem to progress through the plot slowly, as it's meant to be a large campaign, however, we level once every two sessions, or once a session if we're really kicking ass.

As far as the dialogue goes, I just simply don't know what to say. It's not only an unfamiliar world, but I don't always understand what exactly is going on. I sometimes play that up by being the Barbarian (who can get away with being relatively unobservant), but mostly I am willing to sit back and the let rest of the party handle it because they've been a group for years and years, and I'm a newcomer, not to mention a new player of Pathfinder in general.

The dialogue isn't bad, and one guy in particular is an excellent roleplayer who seems to drive the party forward more than the rest. As people, the players and DM are all very nice and willing to help, so I don't feel alienated at all.

Thanks for the posts, guys. I'll see if I can dredge up any detailed examples of what I'm talking about to help the conversation move along.
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David Berg
Member

Posts: 997


« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2011, 04:26:26 PM »

Hi Kyle,

I've played some tactical games where I wished there was more roleplaying.  I look at these as belonging to 3 categories:

1) I enjoyed the tactics, and our group enjoyed character-acting, and I got to do both once I figured out how.

2) I enjoyed the tactics, and our group had no interest in character-acting, so I had to give up on it, enjoy the tactics, and get my roleplaying fix elsewhere.

3) I did not enjoy the tactics, and no amount of character-acting was going to salvage the game for me, and trying just got in everyone else's way.

It sounds to me like you're dealing with #1, and proceeding accordingly, but I just wanted to throw the other possibilities out there for consideration.

When I'm trying to develop a character in a tactical game, one question I try to make sure I have a good answer to is, "Why is my character going on these dangerous quests?"  By not stopping at an answer that's merely sufficient, and instead pushing for something that actually inspires me, I put myself in a better position to find meaning in all the ups and downs of the characters' endeavors.

if I did build a new character, this time I would build it while sitting next to the DM, so I could gain motivations and goals that intertwine with the plot.

I've gotten great mileage out of that!  Whenever I've said to a GM, "I think this part of your world/plot is cool, I want to see more of it in the game, let's see how we can use my character to do that," I've always been received with enthusiasm.  Usually it seems to wind up with me playing a traitor of some sort, a character who's more loyal to some NPC faction than to the PCs.

That said, a lot of the content in those games was heavily tied to the GM's plot.  If your DM's plot stays off in the distant background, trying to interface with it might not get you anywhere.

I hope something in here is helpful while you're assembling your examples; if not, feel free to ignore me.

Ps,
-David
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Frank Tarcikowski
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Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2011, 03:53:47 AM »

Yeah, what David said. If the whole situation isn't really plausible (who are these guys and why are they doing this?) then how can you role-play (as in: play the role of) your character? My PF game mentioned above is the Kingmaker adventure path which has a little "player's guide" with some ideas on what kind of characters may be fitting, and why they'd be going. But still, half of the group is made up of characters who don't really make much sense there.

I guess the best you can make of it is to go for funny in-character banter, and embrace the tactical situations. Nobody expects you to give gripping character portrayals and resourceful creative input. Maybe you could come up with something that gives a little recognition value to your character. If he's a barbarian and you're into that kind of thing, you might try and talk in a deep, gruff voice. Maybe your character always talks about his old chieftain? "Chief Eagle-Eye always used to say, a man can never have too many knives", or something along those lines. The odd joke about "mellow townsfolk" may seem a little too clichéd but hey, try it and you may find that it's appreciated. Maybe do a little reading up onlines about Krynn, so you can participate in some appropriate name-dropping.

Character portrayals in the kind of game you are describing, from what experience I have, are usually limited to portraying your character while you solve the mission at hand. While you discuss tactics and strategies with the other players in character, while you talk to NPCs to get information or support, and so on. I wouldn't expect the game to get any deeper into the individual characters and their stories.

- Frank
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2984


« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2011, 04:06:50 AM »

2. People's backstories kinda came outta nowhere, and I don't know how they happened to get brought up. During the first session, almost 30 minutes of play passed before I spoke up, saying, "So... what's everyone's names and what do you look like?" The DM clapped his hands and said, "IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE SAID IT," then everyone else started to give descriptions like "I look like a Fighter" and "I'm an elf who doesn't like humans". I was kinda shocked, since in my games I always started the session by giving the players not only a good reason to be in a party but to have a common ground. They also usually had a few minutes to explain who they were, what they looked like, and occasionally devise ways for their characters to know each other (like being adopted brothers or co-workers or schoolmates or something.)

A thing I used to do, and which some other people adopted, was to start each session with a little vignette from each player about their character.  Like those cuts you see at the beginning of a TV episode, whwere all the characters are shown doing something typical, and the actors name is shown, so everyone knows who they are.  so on that model, people could use these little scenes to describve the character doing somethingthat was meaningful or representative about them.  Perhaps your group could borrow that idea.

Quote
The dialogue isn't bad, and one guy in particular is an excellent roleplayer who seems to drive the party forward more than the rest. As people, the players and DM are all very nice and willing to help, so I don't feel alienated at all.

Ah, well then another idea is to forge a close relationship with this player and character.  Make it your business to assist this person when they want to go in some direction, and involve yourself in whatever they are concerned about.  Sometimes the GM will rely heavily on someone like this, if no-one else is much bothering with the story, such as it is; if so, your help will be appreciated, and it might also help create a more constructive attitude, by example, in the group as a whole.
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Kyle Van Pelt
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2011, 04:16:21 AM »

When I'm trying to develop a character in a tactical game, one question I try to make sure I have a good answer to is, "Why is my character going on these dangerous quests?"  By not stopping at an answer that's merely sufficient, and instead pushing for something that actually inspires me, I put myself in a better position to find meaning in all the ups and downs of the characters' endeavors.

Absolutely. That's a fantastic point, as I think I've become accustomed over the years to creating NPCs that "make sense" without actually enhancing the story, which they should be doing. Good call.

I guess the best you can make of it is to go for funny in-character banter, and embrace the tactical situations. Nobody expects you to give gripping character portrayals and resourceful creative input. Maybe you could come up with something that gives a little recognition value to your character.

This also makes sense, but I think I need to be careful about it. The last thing I want for my character is to be relegated to some kind of comic-relief caricature, which is easy to do with a big, dumb sword-swinger. This brings up, I think, one of my major problems with playing the game so far: I feel like I've sacrificed so much of my good NPCs so players can have fun, that I don't want to make ANY compromises with my PC. There are two inherent problems with this thought:

1. If I'm not compromising a little with my PC, then I'm not embracing DM and peer perceptions of my character, and therefore shutting down any input I could use to RP better.

2. If I feel like I'm sacrificing my NPCs just so the PCs can have some piddly little fun, what does that say about my DM style?

All of your posts have been very insightful, so thanks again. I'll recount some actual play stories of the PF game next post; I'm not enough of a morning person to do it now.
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Kyle Van Pelt
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2011, 05:55:58 AM »

Sorry to double post, but contracycle said something awesome.

A thing I used to do, and which some other people adopted, was to start each session with a little vignette from each player about their character.  Like those cuts you see at the beginning of a TV episode, whwere all the characters are shown doing something typical, and the actors name is shown, so everyone knows who they are.  so on that model, people could use these little scenes to describve the character doing somethingthat was meaningful or representative about them.  Perhaps your group could borrow that idea.

Yes.

My game, Kamui, is meant to be played as though it were a TV show or anime, and this approach to introducing characters is right on the money for it. I had considered something similar, but to know that your method not only works but is productive gives me great ideas.

I know it's a little off-topic, but would you mind giving an example of this kind of character introduction? I don't know if it merits a daughter thread, but successfully introducing a character or party is something I've always found games to lack inspiration on.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2011, 12:57:22 PM »

Hey Kyle, it occurred to me that the Pathfinder game is probably pretty straightforward but the more interesting question is what's up with all that "accommodating" DM style and those "sacrificed" NPCs. What do you think?

- Frank
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Dithmer
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2011, 07:10:10 PM »

Hi Kyle

I am the only one in my group who regularly GM,(Mostly, whenever people decide "hey i want go GM" they usually try a single session, "realize" that they "fucked up" and decide never to GM again (which I think is a bloody pity, since they usually do pretty damn good)) and the only one who enjoys GMing, and I've been faced with this exact same problem.

There is a guy in my group who, and I quote, "want to be an awesome GM" and I've played in one of his sessions. The peculiar thing about this game was that it was inherently (albeit very disfuctional, as i learned later) very straightforward: EVERYONE at the table figured "hey, this guy is new, we better not challenge his prepared material too much" even if it wasn't said explicitly. The end result was that everyone except the new GM thought it was a good session, because the GM expected that we, as players, fucked over everything. I learned this when I talked about his first session later, and he was disappointed, even though none of the players were.

And this really got me to thinking, especially about my own GMing style (since I am the only GM my current group has ever had), where I directly expect that my players will solve my problems. This sounds a lot like Dogs in the Vineyard (which directly says that you shouldn't figure out how a problem COULD be solved) but I actually figured out on my own that the players were usually resourceful enough that they could figure out things without my help. But I found out, when my player tried GMing, that player-activism/input is very important, no matter who GMs. And I found out when I tried to play in his session that my very own attempt at accommodating his wishes was actually detrimental to the story. He told me how he constantly expected derails, weird plans and unexpected detours, and how he didn't understand how we didn't do any of these things.

I think you may have had the same problem; You say that you have a problem getting into ONE character, after playing all the NPCs as a GM, and describe yourself as a "Chameleon" while GMing. What the problem seems to be is that, as a GM you pretty much have to be reactive to whatever the player does, in most circumstances. On the other hand, if you're a player, you have to give the GM something to work with, you have to be in an active role, or the GM feels that he needs to force things onto the PCS.

Now, as noted earlier, i've fund that if you think of the general GM role as player, it inevitably becomes detrimental to the session/story/situation: A GM, pretty much no matter what he's running, will have multiple character under his command, so you can get both an outlet, and a base, for any emotion or characteristic you deem neccessary, whereas if you play a single character, you have to make do with a "limited" set of characteristics and emotions. And I think THIS is the great difference between playing and gamemastering, and the reason I prefer to do the latter; As a player I only get to play ONE character, and this single character has to do things that are interesting and make things interesting, whereas if i play ALL the other characters, If 1 out of 10 is a character which build upon the story, I can retroactively decide which character is effective and good to bring along; ergo, I don't have to make a single character which HAS to be good. Does this make sense to you?
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Kyle Van Pelt
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2011, 12:44:40 PM »

Hey Kyle, it occurred to me that the Pathfinder game is probably pretty straightforward but the more interesting question is what's up with all that "accommodating" DM style and those "sacrificed" NPCs. What do you think?

I think you may have had the same problem; You say that you have a problem getting into ONE character, after playing all the NPCs as a GM, and describe yourself as a "Chameleon" while GMing. What the problem seems to be is that, as a GM you pretty much have to be reactive to whatever the player does, in most circumstances. On the other hand, if you're a player, you have to give the GM something to work with, you have to be in an active role, or the GM feels that he needs to force things onto the PCS.

Gentlemen,

Both of these quotes go hand-in-hand. I think what I meant by "sacrificing" my NPCs is that there have been multiple occasions where the role of the NPC changed a great deal to make the game more fun or interesting for the players, when I had intended something entirely else for them. This is the product of two things:

1. My play style reflects how I build adventures, yet my players do not play like I do, and do not see the same fun as I do. This leads to situations where something I thought would be fun in the session is actually boring for the players, so I must change things accordingly.

2. My DM style was one where I thought I had to build up to a predetermined end, and naturally things never really went that direction. However, now that I've come to understand things like Social Contracts, I see that I've never fully established what exactly I was aiming for in my sessions and instead just expected players to know that they should play a certain way.

I think that by combining a proper social contract and a campaign with a clear goal but NOT a predetermined ending would solve many of my insecurities with DMing.

Lurking on the Forge has been one of the most enlightening things I've done. I think a great deal of my problems with playing in this Pathfinder campaign stem from a failing on both DM and myself to establish what exactly it is that we expect from each other, although I admit that my own inexperience with playing has complicated things.

I think the proper thing to do now is to talk with the DM not only about how I can further involve myself in the campaign world, but also see what his desires are for the party and act accordingly to aid him in the matter. Like I said earlier, it's not that I'm not having fun, because I am enjoying myself. But if I can contribute something meaningful to the campaign, then not only does it intrinsically increase my character's importance to the story, but it also increases my own attachment to the character, and by proxy, the party and setting.

Thanks again for all the comments, guys. I appreciate the feedback. I may start a new thread in a little while to give a play-by-play of how these new developments evolve, if that sounds interesting to you.

Until then, I'm still open for comments and questions, but I think you've all helped me answer my questions in the thread.

Thanks again,

-Kyle
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