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Author Topic: How to enjoy Story Before without Participationism  (Read 3779 times)
Josh Porter
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Posts: 58

I want to be old.


« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2011, 01:58:40 PM »

I am trying to figure a way to communicate my frustrations about this game with the GM in a way that will not hurt his feelings.  He is one of my good friends, as are the rest of the players, and that may be why we all put up with the game as it lies.  We are a bunch of friends hanging out together before all else.  The GM has some very concrete opinions concerning roleplaying, and he stands pretty firmly on them.  They all are pretty traditional, and he's very resistant to a lot of the concepts and terminology regarding the Forge in general.  He recently ran a couple sessions of Dungeon World for a couple of us, and I could see him adapting his old-school GM sensibilities to the style that DW requires as he went.  It was pretty great to see.  But since FATE has no such GM rules, he is definitely falling back to what always worked in D&D (at least that's my take on it).

Long story short, I'm looking for a way to broach the whole conversation of this game without putting him on the defensive.  I think he's got a cool plot going, but it's not flowing the way it needs to for all of us involved to have fun consistently.  It's difficult to tell a guy who sees himself as a storyteller that his story needs to adapt to the group.  That's kind of what's up.  He ran a disastrous L5R game with us about 9 months back where much the same thing happened.  We all went around having character fun and missed his plot without even knowing it.  The thing about that game was that the PCs had fun every session, but the GM got so frustrated that he just called the game short a couple times and kind of stormed off.  I think a lot of us still remember this and are wary of ruining his fun again, so we may be trying to "go easy on him" and follow the trail he's laying.

Now I know that I am the most radical (as in far left hippie games) player in the spectrum of our group.  The other players, while not experiencing maximum fun potential, are generally more content with it.  They are pretty OK with just knowing the basics of a system enough to play it, and then following that wherever it takes them.  I am a glutton for rules and always have been, so I see the way it could be working reflected in other systems, and I lust after it.  This all being said, I am trying to experiment with how to get the most out of the game, while everyone else just kind of waits it out till the good parts.  If I become the railroad conductor, I don't think it will be noticed as such, and it might just throw some extra coal in the furnace to move the story along more quickly.

This has been quite rambly.  I think I just need to drop out some more context on here so that the whole situation is a little more fleshed out.  And if anyone's had a similar conversation with their GM before, I'd love to hear how it went, and what the effects of it were.  I think that might help me lay out my case in a more non-confrontational manner.
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Alfryd
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Posts: 118


« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2011, 02:33:49 PM »

Well, I appreciate the clarification.  I can see where you're coming from now.

I suppose, in the best-case scenario, embracing the railroad could work, but the worst-case scenario is that you'll just wind up delaying the inevitable breakdown of the group and, in the meantime, not enjoy yourself much.

I can't give you any specific advice on how to talk to a GM on a subject like this, but in my experience, railroaded games work best when whatever localised scene-specific problem you're addressing constitutes a viable, interesting, 'mini-game' in itself.

To take the classic example of D&D, players frequently have absolutely no control over the plot, but the monster encounters en-route and the variety of small-scale tactics available for dealing with that problem (i.e, the mini-game) create enough cognitive demands to keep the players engaged.  The fact that the players will win is usually a foregone conclusion, but looking cool while doing so, and maximising the efficiency with which those enemies can be dispatched, is good and sufficient reason to keep playing.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the 'mini-game' which your GM is trying to keep you engaged with isn't really a game at all.  There is one correct skill which will net you one correct answer and allow you to proceed to one correct outcome, which often requires guessing what the GM is thinking beforehand.  There isn't enough analytic complexity (i.e, 'challenge') there to keep the players hooked.  And- I'm guessing- the GM doesn't *want* the procedure here to be all that complex, because he really just wants to push you through these scenes ASAP up to a big conflict/climax.  But paradoxically, the very bareness of these lead-up scenes makes them uninteresting, which makes the players disengage, and therefore makes them take up *more* time, not less.  The problem here is that the GM really just wants to give you the answer without actually giving you the answer.

Perhaps if he were willing to make these lead-up scenes into little puzzles of some kind- where are the clues are handed to you, but the trick lies in interpreting them correctly?- then that would pose enough of a brain-teaser to get all the players aboard?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2011, 04:12:09 PM »

Quote
He recently ran a couple sessions of Dungeon World for a couple of us, and I could see him adapting his old-school GM sensibilities to the style that DW requires as he went.
That sounds really promising - if you think of rules as disscussion itself, this method of discussion clearly worked.

Even more so, could you just run a game yourself? I'd recommend capes, since you can try the free version (and it has a flash demo online too). Or is there a dynamic there - are you at his house and pretty much get together for his game sessions? I come from a background of where everyone in the group pretty much GM'ed at one point or another, often enough even in the same campaign.
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stefoid
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« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2011, 05:02:12 PM »

Is this guy THE GM?  Why didnt you run Dungeon World?  Why dont you suggest running something 'in tandem'  i.e. switch games every fortnight?  and you GM a game you like in the style you want.  The groups reaction to the contrast should be enlightening one way or the other.
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philipstephen
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« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2011, 05:52:56 PM »

One thing that I have not noticed mentioned yet (and it could be because I was skim reading) was talking to your GM.

Tell them what your experience of the game has been and what the experience you are hoping for looks like.

Ask if it is possible to work together to make the game fun for the both of you... maybe the whole group has something to say.

Though it sounds like you have a workable solution to try from other comments.

Good luck!

Phil
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Josh Porter
Member

Posts: 58

I want to be old.


« Reply #20 on: December 17, 2011, 07:08:41 PM »

Is this guy THE GM?  Why didnt you run Dungeon World?  Why dont you suggest running something 'in tandem'  i.e. switch games every fortnight?  and you GM a game you like in the style you want.  The groups reaction to the contrast should be enlightening one way or the other.
This is an excellent question.  The answer is "kind of."  Our group kind of rotates between three GMs: me, the guy we're talking about on this thread, and another dude.   Guy number three is currently running a Deadlands game right now and playing in the Dresden Files game at the same time.  And guy two, who's running Dresden, comes up with games he wants to run fairly regularly, and kind of offers them up to the rest of the group to see who wants to play.  This game is a little different, as it's basically a spin-off.

I just finished running a nine-month-ish game of Dresden that was the precursor to this one.  I had my own struggles with GMing for the complete opposite reasons; the group was expecting the "follow the plot" style game and that's not what I was going for at all.  What ended up happening was a frustration on my part because the players were expecting me to railroad and I wouldn't do it.  Here's the thread I started about it.  At the time I wrote the initial post of that thread I was very burnt out and I sort of used it to work out my frustration.  It was actually a favorite game for almost everyone playing and not as bad as I made it sound in my burnt-out headspace.  I'm better now.  I've also been GMing the playtests of Caterpillar, the game I'm writing at the moment and having a blast.  So I am kind of running another game at the same time; it's almost all the same people.

The reason I didn't run Dungeon World is partly selfish and partly coincidental.  We were just hanging around one night and decided to play it because two of us owned the PDF copy.  We went over to Kinko's, printed some character sheets, and started playing within about an hour.  It was kind of a "Well, I'll GM this game if that's cool with you guys" scenario.  Also I'd been really jonesing to play Apocalypse World as a player specifically for several months, so this seemed like the next best thing.

I definitely think there's hope for this game.  And hope for indie-izing my GM friend.  It will probably need to be a subtle touch, but I think I can bring it up with him and get a positive result.  I'll put up the results of our discussion here once it takes place.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #21 on: December 17, 2011, 11:54:18 PM »

I have a little experience with addressing railroady GMs. 

When a GM has taken on responsibility for giving the players something fun to do, the last thing they want to be told is that they need to make it more fun. 

I discovered this, and tried simply observing that my experience could have been better, without pointing the finger or making any demands.  No luck.  My GM just started spouting what he thought were universal truths about RPG goals, virtues, procedures, and limitations.  "Okay, Dave, it isn't perfect for you.  There are good reasons for that.  And anyway, so what?  We're all having fun, right?"

Asking the GM for advice, "How do I get the most out of this?  What do you wish I was doing?" gave me some useful info on how the GM viewed the game.  That's good to know before proposing changes.

If I had to do it now, I'd talk to the GM purely about what they get out of the game.  That's what I'd advise.  Find out what their favorite parts are.  Then see if you can think up changes to your play system that will get them more of what they like.  That's the change you pitch them.

Once you establish that changing your process can be more fun for them, then you can work on introducing changes that'll be more fun for you.  (Or I guess you could try to do both at once.)
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2011, 10:49:21 AM »

I am trying to figure a way to communicate my frustrations about this game with the GM in a way that will not hurt his feelings.  He is one of my good friends, as are the rest of the players, and that may be why we all put up with the game as it lies.  We are a bunch of friends hanging out together before all else. 
(snip)
Long story short, I'm looking for a way to broach the whole conversation of this game without putting him on the defensive.

So:
1.  The GM has invested a high amount of his self esteem in being a good storyteller, and isn't open to criticism, advice, suggestions, or requests without potentially taking it as being an attack.
2.  As friends, you can't openly talk about the game(s) and what you guys, as a group, find fun per #1.
3.  He's gotten upset and stormed out when the group pursued and achieved the type of play they found fun.

I wish I had an answer for you, but it doesn't seem like the core problem is on finding a better way to communicate, here.

I can suggest some things I've written previously that might be related to what you're describing as your situation.

http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/a-way-out/
http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/building-your-own-house-of-cards/
http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/building-your-own-house-of-cards-pt-2/
http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2007/08/01/building-your-own-house-of-cards-pt-3/

Good luck.

Chris
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Josh Porter
Member

Posts: 58

I want to be old.


« Reply #23 on: December 18, 2011, 12:46:02 PM »

Here's the conversation the GM and I have had through a few emails.  Things look very promising.

ME
Quote
I also have some discussion for you.  This is just for you and me, and not a Reply All type message.  I have been feeling a little lost in this game.  I'm not specifically sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with the structure of the adventures so far.

It definitely seems like you have a solid plan for this DFRPG campaign.  But it also seems like you are a little frustrated with us as players for not picking up on what your plan is.  I know for me, I've been kind of following the plot along, not interacting too much.  I think this is because I get the feeling that you want the story to proceed a certain way and I don't want to mess that up.  I think I'm a little wary of creating another L5R game where us PCs have fun, but you as the GM end up frustrated.

I don't know if this is the same vibe you're getting, but I figured it was good to talk about.  How do you feel the game is going?  Am I making any sense, or is this kind of coming out of left field?

HIM
Quote
I've certainly had a few frustrating sessions. I'm working pretty hard on _not_ creating another L5R, honestly, as I've tried really hard to avoid pushing y'all down any particular path or forcing any particular plot thread onto center stage. My advice isn't to sit back and let me feed you plot, because that isn't my intent - my intent has been to provide multiple hooks into things going on for PC's to latch on to. I'm gradually shifting that approach because it's been leading to folk being unsure about what ought to be done or what my expectations are.

My prep has been to work up 2-3 different situations for the PC's to become involved in. Those that don't get used are saved to be 'recycled' for later use. I do have an overarching plot in mind but it's really something to be uncovered rather than delivered.

Part of the problem (which [the other guy who GMs] helped me drill down to) is that we never did city creation properly, so when I toss out NPC's (like poor Diana Collard) players don't have any idea of whether they're important or who they are in the setting. Hence, I'm hoping to collect some folk that y'all will have a meta-knowledge of beforehand, and whose appearance will be a signal of "hey, I'm a guest star in an episode about this town/problem/particular PC and worth paying attention to." I've also been a little more subtle (and TV inspired) in the hooks I've presented.

Hence, Chuluun. [the yeti who my character met with] My intent with introducing the arch-conservative Mongolian was to light a bit of a fire under your ass. I didn't do a very good job of presenting him (and probably should have intro'd Diana somewhat earlier, so I didn't need to pause and explain). My advice to you for ways to increase your fun and reduce my frustration is to grab on to story hooks with both hands and engage. I've been having a lot of trouble with going "so what are you guys doing" and getting silence from the table. It's hard for me to offer compels or bring the mechanics into play when all I can do is narrate and straight up ask "so do you want to x?" Be aware that while I've read your story and your aspects, I still don't know everything you do about, frex, Yeti culture (you made them up, after all!) so when I toss out situations like a friendly 'quatch being missing, it might be more helpful to mention, say "well, I wouldn't normally go looking but maybe you can offer some mitigating circumstances or more detail?" Basically, meet me halfway if you think I'm dangling a hook.

Anyhow. Me and [the other guy who GMs] talked some GMly habits post last session and over email later. I'm settling in to a very different style of gaming with DFRPG and I'm juggling a lot in my head - multiple plot threads, aspects I might compel, and making sure everyone is included - especially Ali, as she's still getting her feet, I think. Most of my anger centering around table-talk or jokes has been related to myself or someone else being talked over during what would otherwise be IC moments.

Anyhow. TL;DR, engage and grab on to stuff that interests you. Ask me questions OOCly (and make it clear they're OOC) and try to meet me halfway, because I dislike spoon-fed plots.

ME
Quote
Coolio.  That helps me much.  Also what does " TL;DR" mean?  I will give a shot to grabbing on with both hands for sure.  I think one of the reasons I've not been doing that so far is because while I see your plot hooks' importance to the plot as a whole, I'm not always connecting their importance to Lloyd.  I'm trying to filter them through his character, and sometimes that dilutes the importance of such things.  I also think some good old-fashioned NPCs will help a lot.  None of us really have people we care about outside the group at the moment, and I think that's inherently important.

I think the one thing that I'm struggling with is keeping Lloyd a "round character", as opposed to a character who has no real life outside of the adventure.  I wanted to hold off a bit on the whole "missing yeti" story and see how it played out privately first before telling the whole group.  I like the idea of open secrets on the table, where my character knows something that no other characters know, but we all know it as players.  I don't know if that is something that would have ruined the plot or not, but I felt like we had a couple other places to go, and I wanted to hold on to that one a bit.  It didn't end up happening, but that's because I got the feeling that I was acting out.  Not just from you specifically, it was just kind of the general vibe.  If there is anything else I can work on to make this game run a little more smoothly, let me know, sir.  I appreciate this conversation.

I think this all looks good for the future of the game.  I'll make a hippie-gamer out of him yet!
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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2011, 01:59:09 PM »

Quote
I've been having a lot of trouble with going "so what are you guys doing" and getting silence from the table.
If your GM is serious about running a less team-confronts-my-plot style game, I have a purely practical observation related to this point. Psychologists have observed that people in a group are less likely to respond to an ambiguous situation than an individual on their own would be. Basically, what happens is that people see the other people around them not doing something, so they subconsciously assume that "doing nothing" is the right thing to do. When a GM asks a group "what do you guys do?", there's a psychological barrier for each individual player to step forward and propose an action for the whole group. The practical suggestion for GMs is to not ask "the group" to respond, but to ask an individual player what their character's response is. Since each player knows that they have authority over their own character, they're less likely to hesitate and "let someone else go first". (This could obviously result in characters splitting up and going in different directions or even working at cross purposes, so it won't work if the group isn't on board with that type of game.)
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Callan S.
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« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2011, 03:24:28 PM »

I'm pretty sure a dislike of spoon fed plot means
Quote
My advice to you for ways to increase your fun and reduce my frustration is to grab on to story hooks with both hands and engage.
He wants you to pick up the spoon yourself and feed yourself.

I guess my question would be how does a player know what a story hook is? And what is 'engaging'? He might very well be asking "So what are you guys doing?" because no one can see the important parts and even once they cotton on after frustrated prompting, they don't know the exact engagement method.

I'm kind of thinking keeps just enough remnants of 'you can do what you want' freedom so as to evoke a world, but that itself gets in the way of the plot because it hides what the story hooks are and what the engagement method is.

It's possible that if the GM could be put in the same position as the player, he'd be just as cluelessly standing there, needing to be prompted with "what are you doing now?". But he can't as he knows the script, so whenever he looks at it from a players point of view, he's always informed by the script. How often is he a player?

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David Berg
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« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2011, 03:45:48 PM »

I agree with Callan. 

I think this:

HIM
I've tried really hard to avoid pushing y'all down any particular path . . . my intent has been to provide multiple hooks into things going on for PC's to latch on to . . . My prep has been to work up 2-3 different situations for the PC's to become involved in.

tends not to work well with this:

I do have an overarching plot in mind

Giving the players hooks they will reliably want to pursue is a craft that requires certain techniques.  If your game system hasn't handed you those techniques, you'll need to develop them yourselves.  In my experience, uber-plot concerns tend to interfere with the process of developing those techniques, and with a GM's ability to employ them to best effect.

I can make some suggestions regarding "hooks that will be pursued", but I dunno if that's off topic or fodder for a new thread or what.  (You could also try searching the Forge for "flags", "flagging", or "flag framing".)  Once that's covered, then I'd take a closer look at the uber-plot and how to work it in.  I've had some success doing that, but it depends on how important uber-plot progress is to the GM's enjoyment.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: December 18, 2011, 10:29:45 PM »

Just thought I'd quickly add, what might be really helpful to ask for from him is a hypothetical example of play - ie, he writes out a section of made up play, what he'd say, what he'd like the players to say in responce, when rolls happen, and so on, back and forth between what the GM says and what the players say, a few times. In seeing an example, it might really illustrate what the cues are for when players are to do something.
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contracycle
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« Reply #28 on: December 19, 2011, 02:03:13 PM »

I think what Dan has flagged up is very important, possibly critical.  So it might be interesting to know what the dynamic is between the player characters - how are they connected to each other?  Becuase in this respect, the least effective solution is to have characters be "just friends", and the best solution is to have them in some kind of command structure.

I've experienced exactly this sort of problem as a GM, and my solution was to make one PC the head guy and all the others subordinates.  This meant that if I could hook the head guy, all the rest came along too.  And because the relationships wese in character, this meant that it informed some of the rest of play - they could also squabble, plot mutinies, and so on, but it was all now directed rather than random, and contributed to the overall direction and tone.

On a slightly more abstract level, even if you don't have such a structure, even one player willing to actively work with the GM can be absolute gold.  The worst case is being faced with a bunch of players looking back at you and demanding "go on, make me care".  Just one player willing to pick up the ball and run with it can set off a virtuous circle of engagement producing fun which produces engagement and so on.  You can, if you want, be that guy.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #29 on: December 19, 2011, 03:32:08 PM »

Josh I've been writing my response to this as I've been reading the thread and been able to tick off my own advice as you've done it, but I do still have some ideas.

The sort of stuff he's said really does seem promising, as he's obviously working to make the game better, it's just that he doesn't have the tools to do it properly yet. These are the tools that come to mind to me, although people more experienced with Fate may need to check them:

He seems to be using clues when he could be using compels, which are a piece of dresden files equipment perfectly suited to making players follow a plot/set up future events. People think that they have to use them to get people "into trouble" in order to "earn" players their fate points, but it's not like that at all: Fate points allow the GM to do almost exactly what he did to you at the camp fire within the system. If he wants you to act a certain way, then all he needs to do is set up a situation so that a compel will be appropriate given the aspects you have set and the character you are interested in.

In other words if he wants you to get to a certain place, he doesn't just need to feed you information until you gain a sufficient sense of cosmic destiny/emotional guilt to go do something. Instead he can just get you to be involved in situations by having them fit your character concept, and then compelling your characters to go along with it.

So instead of trying to "compel" you the player via a hook he hopes will interest you, he can focus his hooks on confirming your character concept. In theory at least, he can then give you the kind of situations you want while carrying on his plot, because they have to include the stuff that suits you or there will be no reasonable way to introduce a compel. And this gives you some definite feedback you can give him: "compel my character like this and I'll find it more interesting". A way of getting in on his railroading without him letting you behind the illusionists curtain.

Now this might not be what either of you want:

Do you mainly want to portray a particular character? If that's the cool bit for you, then this method can help you, because you can just chat about your aspects, what they mean to you, and have him expect you to do certain things that you are interested in doing.

And if he is just using clues as he always has, as roadsigns and motivation, then he might be trying to work out what to do with these "compels", like walking around trundling a bike wondering what its for, when he could be using it to get places faster.

But while this could seriously shortcut your way to whatever he's actually interested in, it relies on the assumption that he doesn't particularly like his investigation scenes, and is just doing them to set up the future.

Of course he may have mixed motivations, like if he also wants to introduce certain characters, create a sense of place and so forth. In which case, he could still use compels, to muffle over the logic of "scene transitions". (You know: Let the scene run, and when everyone's had enough, compel people to the next bit of the plot!) But if he actually wants focused in-character interaction, he'd probably be far happier setting things up so that you can all go your various ways, and putting the appropriate NPCs in the places you happen to go, so that each person gets to meet npcs while also doing what they want.

He could observe all those situations when characters in films or books stumble upon something by accident when in their daily lives, then get roped into it, or motivated to work with it, with only about four scenes = 1 hour set up time, often less.

That might also help you, where instead of asking you all "what do you do now", he asks each of you in turn for a bit of detail into your characters ordinary life, then folds his plot ideas into that, wherever you happen to be. Taking turns to play out each player’s story, then with people sort of regrouping and sharing knowledge etc.


But back to compels because the other stuff sounds like it's quite a big structural change, and I can't tell if it would actually give you what you're after.

In addition to solving the basic problem of making that kind of game chug forward; where the GM doesn't have to go all pleading eyes (in character or out) in order to get you to do stuff he can prepare for, compels can also act as a signalling mechanism:

If he starts getting a hang on your character concept, then hopefully you'll be happy to go along with his compels, if he's got it slightly wrong; where his ideas don't really match your interests, you can show him by putting up token resistance in terms of Fate points. Then he can double your current total Fate pot in order to get you to do it, or adjust the compel slightly in order to make it suit you better. The ability to temporarily resist GM force, in a way he can escalate past, allows you to show him when he's pushing things in a way that is not matching your interests, without putting him in panic mode because he's unsure how to get anything to happen.

If this kind of system is working, and the game is very GM-plot-driven, then the amount of fate points in a player's pool can represent the levels of trust and agreement between player and GM, if a player is hoarding fate points to protest compels, then that can be a sign that something is going wrong, and that the two of you need to have a chat about aspects or broader game concerns. But if the player is more likely to accept compels, because they match what they are interested in, then they will be happy to just empty their pool in doing stuff, or even in suggesting facts that the GM agrees to.

The specific way that dresden files uses fate points within the game world can obscure this, but it could be helpful in the game, if your GM replaces any “anyone want to check under the sink?” stuff with just compelling the player he thinks has the most obviously appropriate aspect. It can also be another way of showing him those situations where he is accidentally auto-scripting entire situations.
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