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Author Topic: Setting expectations, resolving conflicts, and other Rx's for dysfunctional play  (Read 4712 times)
stefoid
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« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2012, 05:34:56 PM »


@stefoid:
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system

Hows that working for you :)
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Double_J
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Posts: 15


« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2012, 06:11:02 PM »


@stefoid:
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system

Hows that working for you :)
touche. ;-p

To be fair, he's just one guy ....  the answer is - or at least should be - refinement of presentation.  (or am I just being stubborn?)
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stefoid
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« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2012, 01:42:49 AM »

AW is very structured in that it tells you explicitly when you roll dice , and provides a framework for the results.  Might give you less to argue about.
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2012, 10:48:17 AM »

Hi,

Quote
Could that not be achieved using virtually any system, by using some sort of (properly articulated) "primer", perhaps based off of something like Chris's "same page tool"? 
(snip to different response, same topic)
...the answer is - or at least should be - refinement of presentation.  (or am I just being stubborn?)

You'll notice in that last reply, I've got the big caveat that you can give the big presentation, but, at the end of the day, it may just be he doesn't want to play that way.  Like I said, the problem has several steps you need to work through:

1.  Being clear with him
2.  Whether he believes you or not
3.  Whether he's capable of honestly articulating what he wants back TO you (recognition, articulation, trust, etc.)
4.  Whether those two things are compatible

In my experience, the player who spends a lot of energy and time avoiding the rules, is probably so low on trust that the situation is pretty unlikely to end with, "Wow! You mean we're actually playing like THIS instead of THAT? Oh, let me change how I'm doing things."

Most of the time, I've seen what happens is it becomes a "discussion"(argument) about what constitutes good roleplaying and how gaming should work, which is, in fact, actually the person repeating truisms without actually connecting them to play ("Fun is all that matters!" "I just want a good story!" "I'm playing my character!" "This would be realistic!", etc.)

The Same Page Tool is designed to make the idea clear, but if you get "What if?" "But", etc. type deflections the answer is, "Man, I'm sorry I didn't have this clear when we started playing.  It sounds like you want to play a different game.   How about I give you a call when we start playing a game that fits those criteria?"

Of course, this gives you the other problem - people assume not-playing together is a form of personal friendship rejection. 

Chris
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Callan S.
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« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2012, 01:02:34 PM »

Hi Jason,

Sorry, I went on holidays for a week shortly after posting and forgot to note that.

Quote
Hmm.  Well, I can pump out material all day long; but without meaningful engagement by the players, then there's no point -- I might as well just go write a novel.
In order for me to generate material that is interesting for me to watch, then yes, I do need meaningful player feedback.  In order for me to have fun, I need for the players to show some initiative -- it's kinda the point.  Otherwise if just feels like I'm leading them by the nose.
Please, continue
Well, it sounds like gamist, play to win (or atleast one type of gamist PTW) doesn't appear as meaningful player feedback to you. So I'm not sure you can enjoy gaming with him. To do so - well, remember 'the big screw' he referenced. Well you'd probably have to enjoy delivering screw overs. If you think of Gygax inventing rust monsters and treasure chest shaped mimics and cursed magic weapons (and monsters who pretended to be ceilings...or floors...or walls...), screw overs were the dealio. You enjoyed delivering screw overs or trying to evade them or you just weren't up for the game, either as GM or player. Certainly the computer game 'Nethack' feels like it has screwed me over with it's deaths (people invented the acronym YASD because of this game (Yet Another Stupid Death)), and it's beloved of many people.

Thing is, it gets a bit souless and he will most likely avoid developing any sort of characterisation because that just gives the GM another means of screwing the player over. It's not impossible to pump out souless material, but you might only be able to pump out dramatic material (which begs dramatic engagement or otherwise, as you say, you may as well write a novel) and you are actually unable to produce souless material.

I think I've had perhaps some similar issues in my early GM'ing career, onwards. Writing some dramatic material, only for it to be engaged purely in an 'overcome it all' way. My responce was to try and figure some formula of generating material that always grabs. But it never seemed to work - the formulaic stuff didn't grab them, but the dramatic stuff, while it grabbed them, they did nothing with it but try to overcome it all. It may be a special kind of dysfunctional play, where some players are attracted to dramatic material, but can't seem to engage it dramatically, yet they find formulaic material dull, regardless of obstacles to overcome. All they do is drain the GM.

So I dunno, what do you think?

Quote
BTW, please describe these warts of mine that you derived from my posts -- I'm interested (I rarely turn down an opportunity for self improvement; thus I welcome constructive criticism).
The thing is, if your playing under a traditional game structure with the golden rule and all that, how can using those rules in any particular way be wrong? It creates a certain relativist environment, where dropping a heap of gold on players feet is relatively equal to using GM fiat to capture, torture and try and berate players into certain use of their PC/the spoken fiction they speak.

Something to try might be house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat (and the house rule also nulls the golden rule, so you can't use it to return that GM fiat ability mid game). By removing such an ability, it might make gameplay different when you can't draw upon that sort of GM fiat maul at any moment. Might feel more exciting because of having less control over the whole event (it becomes more like everyones in the same shopping trolley together, even the GM, zooming downhill in directions highly uncontrolled!)
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Erik Weissengruber
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Designing "In this Sign, Conquer:


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« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2012, 06:02:20 AM »

Fred also refuses to "just do it" -- ever (well, at least not without sulking).  Every course of action must be meticulously planned, to the point of trying to establish a trembling hand perfect equilibrium -- an equilibrium that must exist at all times (obviously with continuous refinement).  And nobody is allowed to muck up his plans.  When confronted on this matter, he responds with a tightly-constructed defense as to why it's the only reasonable approach/solution.  (oh, btw -- I've even started to delve in to formal Game Theory in an effort to try to find solutions ... but there's a lot out there, and I've only got so much time and energy). 

You might want to point out that even the simplest scenarios handled by Game Theory deal with likely or best possible outcomes of decisions made in conditions of uncertainty.  If you assume a repeated game, you can weigh your chances and try strategy A in 75% of the instances and B 25% of the time.  And that is the best you can do.

You minimize the number and value of negative outcomes, and maximize the best possible chances you can get from an opponent who is also trying to minimize their number of negative outcomes.

Anyone interested in games of imperfect information should be willing to roll with this.  Your friend seems to want to play a game of perfect information.
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David Shockley
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Posts: 21


« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2012, 05:51:43 PM »

It doesn't sound to me like he would enjoy it if you tried to challenge him, so I don't think its really an issue of 'Fred is a Gamist'. (I'm a bit biased though, I'm not sure I believe in someone being a 'Gamist' or whatever. I mean a preference sure, but most people, even if they really like chocolate ice cream, are not going to turn down a scoop of vanilla.)

Changing games is helpful, not just because DnD encourages some of these habits.. but also because they are _habits_ and even if he wants to change them it will probably be easier if you change the context somewhat. The greater the change, the more likely to shake him out of them.

Apocalypse World:
In AW whenever the players look to the GM to talk it is his 'turn'. The GM then picks a 'move' and makes it. GM moves are all just guidelines for adding to the fiction, things like 'announce future badness' or 'offer an opportunity with a cost'. So if the players come up with a plan, and then look to you to tell them what happens, you are supposed to respond with a move, and they are pretty much all going to escalate the situation in some way. (You could also respond by saying how their plan succeeds, and making your move as a fictional consequence, or aftermath to their success.). The moves give you a lot of freedom, but you aren't allowed to screw the players over with your turns unless they have either failed a roll, or 'handed you an opportunity on a plate'.

That's the part of the rules most relevant to your situation, I think.

I'd recommend With Great Power. It is very structured, and requires the heroes to lose some conflicts before they can win overall. It is also further from DnD than AW is, I think. It is a system which doesn't give any mechanical advantage to people with better equipment/powers. It follows 'comic book logic', where even though Superman is more powerful than Batman he isn't more likely to succeed in a conflict.

I'm sure there are other good candidates though. And I'm not saying it is _impossible_ to fix while still playing DnD, I just think it will be harder.
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David Berg
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Posts: 997


« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2012, 01:08:37 AM »

Double_J, if you want to see what mileage you can get out of pre-game presentations (and I have no idea whether that's a good idea in this case or not), here's my recommendation, based on experience:

1) Clarify aloud what's going to be fun about this activity.

2) Clarify aloud what players must do to achieve that fun.

(If you need help with Steps 1 & 2, you could try Chris's Same Page Tool.  Just make sure, at the end, to clarify the Fun and the Path to Fun.)

3) Put the responsibility on everyone to hold each other accountable for that.

4) Demonstrate how to gently, and in a cooperative spirit, address honest errors.

Then, in play, put your money where your mouth is.  Each time someone plays wrong, correct them instantly, citing the pre-game agreement on the chosen path to fun and cordially offering a way back onto it. 

Example from a game I ran: "Searching the prison is a fine plan, but remember, this is a teamwork investigation game, so you should at least announce your intentions to the other characters before going off on your own.  They may have cool ideas to help the search!"

Also, when you make corrections, encourage others to do the same, including correcting you when you slip up.  Maybe even try to call out your own mistakes if others don't, to show that the group is accountable to the principle, rather than the players being accountable to the GM.  I've definitely gotten great mileage out of that.

Ps,
-David
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dindenver
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Don't Panic!


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« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2012, 02:15:27 PM »

JJ,
  Well, there are a couple of issues floating around in this post. the one I want to address as the most urgent issue is perceived aggressiveness.
  I think that you and he need to sit down and talk it out.. But be prepared to accept his criticisms. Honestly, it sounds like you would be a hard GM for me to play with. That is not meant as a put-down, but as a way for you to realize that style issues go both ways. If there are things he is doing consistently that annoy you, than there is a good chance you are doing things consistently to annoy him.

  Although I wouldn't be able to stand his pushy behavior, otherwise this guy would be awesome to play with. When you have a moment go check out the DM section of the WotC forums. I don't play D&D anymore, but I wanted to see what new GMs were up against when I was writing the GM section of my game. The vast majority of the posts had to do with trying, somehow, to get the players to plan and think before charging into battle. Now, too much of a good thing CAN be bad, but honestly, I would much rather have a player that wants to scope an issue out and come up with a plan before charging in, even if it is taken to extremes.

  Next, I wanted to talk about your GM style. It really seems that you have certain set piece battles that you want to hit before the night is through. That is all fine and it is well within the spirit of D&D. But, you can't offer to have sandbox play and then get upset when the kids ignore one corner of the sandbox. I wouldn't go so far as to say you are railroading, but I would say that your desire to present your cool contributions to the table are getting in the way of the other players' contributions at the table. I mean the description of how you violently tried to shutdown any attempt at skullduggery is very telling about this. And the fact that this seems to be the same tactics that your indestructible shadow organization uses is even more indicative that you have a playstyle you prefer that you are not communicating effectively. And I do mean playstyle, not CA. the fact that you both can converse in great lengthy detail about rules interpretations tells me that your CA is probably not that far off from his. But, instead the style of play you want to see at the table is different.

  Lastly, I would suggest a different system for you. One that allows you to do more aggressive scene framing. That seems to be your bone of contention, where is the action happening and what is going on. I think if you and he played a game where the characters did not need equipment to succeed/survive and that allowed you to say, "OK, next scene, you are on a pirate boat and the captain is leering at you menacingly" that you and he would have a grand old time. Maybe Spirit of the Century or Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System? These are games where over the top action and aggressive scene framing are the norm.

  Finally, I am one of those Risk Averse players and I can give you some insight into what is going on (and it almost never has to do with trust).
  First, I usually compare my experiences against what I am told the game is about (told by the GM). So, if the GM says I am doing over the top action, then I will be disappointed if they give me a penalty to do a back-flip while I dodge. Similarly if I am told this is a gritty medieval horror game and my first encounter is a rainbow-colored Pegasus, I will be equally disappointed. Also, a big part of this attitude has to do with something I am sure you have heard many times, "I am not out to screw my players, if they die, it is because they did something stupid." Nowadays, I understand the sentiment, but taken literally it means, "if my character dies, it is because I did something stupid." So, based on that idea, I am going to slow down and look at everything from more than one angle. Also, there are a ton of games that when my character dies, I don't get to play, sometimes for hours, longer if I need GM approval for stuff. Plus, in a lvl 15 campaign that is played from lvl 5, then there are a lot of questions around what level will I be if I have to make a new character and what equipment would they have? I know you don't care for equipment rules, but the reality is, that somewhere between a quarter and half of a characters effectiveness comes from their equipment in D&D. Which, again, begs the question of why you haven't switched systems given your dislike of equipment rules and shopping and the need to perform those activities in D&D 3.5.
  All of this is not to say that you are doing it wrong (or that he is), but rather an attempt to let you see how the other side sees these sorts of issues. I GM at least 50% of the time (usually more) and have had issues with problem players. I really do sympathize with you. But I just don't think it is constructive to lay it all on him and not accept that you are contributing to at least part of the issue.
  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, I love a good discussion.
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Dave M
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Double_J
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Posts: 15


« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2012, 07:01:34 PM »

Hey guys -- sorry for the delay ... it's been a hectic week. (lucky me -- I've got the whole next week off ... WOOHOO!)
I have, however, had a few minutes here and there to at least read the posts; so I've had plenty of time to really think on things.
That being said -- after further discussions with some of my other players (most notably Bob and Jim), I have finally come to the determination that Fred and I cannot simultaneously occupy the same game table.  At first, I thought of him as sort of a Gordian Knot .... but the more I think on it, the more I come to realize that he's a lost cause. 
However, I think that this discussion can still serve its purpose (and for me, that is both examining what went wrong here and how to conduct business moving forward ... in respect to the title).

Let me give a little update as to the aforementioned discussions with Jim and Bob:
We are, all three, in agreement that Fred's planning are very extreme -- he really does insist on not acting without that "perfect information" that Erik mentioned.  If he's forced to act with imperfect/incomplete information, he simply holds up everything and just waits for something to happen to us (or throws a tantrum if someone else in the party tries to push us in to action .... I can give examples if needed) -- as mentioned earlier, this isn't isolated to any game; this is just the way he plays (he has mentioned from time to time that he learned some of his habits from playing Paranoia -- and isn't shy about expressing that he believes that said habits are appropriate for any game).

Bob also reminded of something else that had bothered him (but had forgotten about): Bob's character had a fairly detailed background that seemed to be custom-made to go hand-in-hand with the overall theme of the game (as coincidental as it may have been).  I mean, he might as well have just called his character "Mr. Macguffin", as far as I was concerned.  Not only that, but it was painfully obvious (or at least should have been) that he was playing right in to my hand.  But Fred was having none of it -- he basically said that he didn't find any of what Bob wanted to do to be interesting, and just wanted to go back to torturing henchmen for information. 
Bob tried to press for it, at which point Fred was just like "fine -- go off and do it on your own then; but if anything happens to you, it's all your fault, and we aren't gonna help you".  I even mentioned that Bob did indeed have a strong angle to explore, to which Fred responded "screw your trap -- we're doing this my way".  Which derailed in to yet another fruitless argument over the fact that I indeed was not out to screw them -- he explicitly wasn't buying it.  So, in Bob's effort to get along and still be able to explore his character, he let his character do his thing off-screen -- but was forced to bring in another character just so that he would have something to do at the table.
Bob is still a little miffed over that; and I wish I had pressed harder -- potentially even openly ignoring everything else while eagerly exploring Bob's direction (hoping that Fred, et.al., would be forced to follow).  But as it was, I did what I generally do and let the players hash it out themselves.
To be honest, I seem to go (too far) out of my way to avoid being accused of "railroading" -- to a fault.  I just don't want to be "that DM".  This is just the first time that fun was compromised in the process -- at least that I can remember.  The few times that I have invoked DM fiat (or otherwise imposed railroading techniques) to hard-line something, it has always felt really awkward and I've generally regretted it (if not in the act itself, then at least in the implementation).

Bob has expressed that he'd like to see me take a stronger hand in these types of situations; and Jim has recently out-right refused to sit the same table as Fred ever again.
***note: I know that it may seem that I just like dumping on Fred a lot -- I'm just simply trying to isolate a few things and explore some specific problems .... Fred really is a good guy and fun to just hang out with***


So, back to the responses (btw, I've posed many of these points to Bob and Jim; so, much of what follows is what has come out of those discussions):

@ Chris:
It is what it is.  I could try to re-engage; but I'm skeptical.  You make sense; but at this point, I'm just so drained that I don't think that I'd be up for it right now.


@ Callan:
There was a time that I thoroughly enjoyed the "Gygaxian" model; but I've noticed that as time has progressed, that model has become less and less interesting to me.
My incapacity for pumping out the soulless, formulaic material is more a function of boredom than anything.  Draining indeed.
So, what do I think?  I think that you are tugging at a thread that reaches to the heart of one of my major issues here.  I've not thought of things in quite this perspective (or at least not really isolated/codified things quite this way).
The thing is, if your playing under a traditional game structure with the golden rule and all that, how can using those rules in any particular way be wrong? It creates a certain relativist environment, where dropping a heap of gold on players feet is relatively equal to using GM fiat to capture, torture and try and berate players into certain use of their PC/the spoken fiction they speak.

Something to try might be house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat (and the house rule also nulls the golden rule, so you can't use it to return that GM fiat ability mid game). By removing such an ability, it might make gameplay different when you can't draw upon that sort of GM fiat maul at any moment. Might feel more exciting because of having less control over the whole event (it becomes more like everyones in the same shopping trolley together, even the GM, zooming downhill in directions highly uncontrolled!)
I'm still struggling a bit with this one.  I would much appreciate a little more articulation here (if you don't mind).
As for "house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat" .... with someone like Fred, I think that this would be disastrous.  The presence of GM fiat capacity is one of the few things that keep him from taking control of the entire game (i.e., from everybody).  I think that I've reached the point where I believe that someone that is that much of a control freak needs to be left sulking (with constructive discussion afterward).  YMMV.


@ Erik:
I think that you've hit the nail on the head with the "need for perfect information".  Hell, he blew up at me over the whole "rain is fulling up the canyon" because I didn't adequately explain the specific and proper geological/meteorological conditions (never mind that I explained that I'm neither a geologist nor a meteorologist and that it was just an element add to add depth and interest), and continued haranguing me until I finally just said "fine, it's not raining". 
I think that I might want to spend some more time continuing to familiarize myself with Game Theory, and learning how to better implement it as a part of my toolbox.


@ David S.:
No, he definitely does not enjoy being challenged.
I take that back:  he enjoys the mental challenge of a puzzle.  However, he does get rather pissed when he's unable to figure out the "trick" of a given puzzle, or if the "trick" turns out to be something other than what he wants it to be.  He thoroughly hates (to the point of revolt) it when he's not in control of the circumstances and the inherent challenges of said types of situations. 
He wasn't quite as bad when we started playing V:tR .... until he "figured out" the Storyteller's style and the dynamics of that particular game.  Then it was back to usual.  He will always find something to argue about -- and then browbeat you to death with it.


@ David B.:
I really like the way you articulated that.
I'm not sure that I can really add anything to that; except that manipulative people can make it hard to do this in a good-faith fashion.


@ dindenver:
Wow.  That's quite a lot there.
I must agree with you on my lack of effective communication ..... which, incedently, is really the whole point of this thread (i.e., "how do I more effective communicate expectations").  And given that fact that I have agonized for months over "what can I do different, while still achieving desired results" .... well .... yeah.   And by "desired results" I mean "run/play the kind of game I like and get the kind of fun I want out of it".
As to what annoys him ... the only thing that I've ever been able to get out of him is that he wants to be able to have more control as a player over the story.  When I pressed him on it (by reminding him that they'd been given full reign with more control than a player oughta have a right to), his story shifted a little.  Then it became an issue of how the world reacted to them. 
He expressed how he thought various scenarios should've play out -- which necessarily meant that he wanted control over NPC actions.  He wanted the NPCs to do all the work for him -- which is fine for little stuff; but when it comes to major plot elements, as far as I'm concerned, that really is the purview of the PCs (and have expressed as much at game).  He wanted to be able to have Shadow Org. to be tied up in a neat little package so that he didn't have to worry about it.  But that was the whole point of the game -- I explained from the get-go that the whole campaign was intended to be a race to the end ..... it's not a race if you're the only competitor.  I explained that Shadow Org's structure was not the puzzle, and that I had absolutely no interest in making it such (being as I had just run a 2.5-year campaign where that was the puzzle; and as such was drained and thoroughly done with that angle).  I also pretty-much came out and said that such a puzzle wasn't solvable -- not because of fiat, but because of design .... and designed that way so as to specifically discourage that direction of exploration (primarily as an in-game mechanism, which inadvertently became a metagame structure).  I'm all for player agency and all that; but at some point you really do have to just accept certain basic game conceits and move on.

As to my set pieces .... that seems fair enough.  Granted, I usually have some stuff ready to drop in as needed (if needed); also, I do want there to be something to happen each session; but I'm not particularly attached to any given thing at a given session.  I do, however, need for there to be some movement towards some sort of climax, and "4-hours of ad hoc planning, followed by hitting a narrative win-button, followed by 2+ hours of treasure analysis" (regardless of whether or not any new treasure was had as a result of the win-button) does not fit my definition of "moving towards climax".

Risk Adverseness ....
I really have tried.  I explicitly won't let a party go blindly on a ride that they clearly are not tall enough for (after they know the risks ... well, then it's on them).  I've recently come to this determination (and please don't take this personally) -- if risk-taking and acting on imperfect information through an avatar in a completely imaginary context is too much to expect from someone, then perhaps the whole adventure-roleplaying thing is too much for their ego to handle (and should thus find another activity).
Yes, some level of risk adverseness is expected (and like you said, needed); but like you also said, some people take it too far.  What I want to know is this: how do you encourage a risk-adverse individual to actually act in the face of imperfect information and/or unbalanced odds?


@ recommendations for other games:
I've actually spent a significant amount of time searching out other games in recent months.  I must say that I've found most of them lacking (granted, I've only read them ... maybe playing them would be different).
Many of these games seem to be lacking in a hard structure, and as such seem like they'd involve a lot of "Magical Tea Party".  structure = consistency ; consistency = good.
Many of them have a narrative that just isn't my cup of tea.  In and of itself, whatever .... but when the mechanics push towards that narrative, I've gotta pass.
One trend I've noticed is "character-centric" design/theme/narrative.  I could go on quite a rant here; but I'll just leave it at that I am partial to a more "traditional" plot-centric model that is reinforced by the setting, and the characters explore/interact with plot through the setting.
Then there's those with just some foreign and wonky mechanics ...... some of it is just overly intrusive.
Sure, some of the undesired mechanics can be ignored; but not when it is plastered right smack dab in the middle of the character sheet.
I've run across 2-3 that have piqued my interest .... I'll see how it goes.
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Chris_Chinn
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Posts: 280


« Reply #25 on: January 15, 2012, 07:31:26 PM »

Hi Double J,

Quote
That being said -- after further discussions with some of my other players (most notably Bob and Jim), I have finally come to the determination that Fred and I cannot simultaneously occupy the same game table.(snip) It is what it is.  I could try to re-engage; but I'm skeptical.  You make sense; but at this point, I'm just so drained that I don't think that I'd be up for it right now. 

Actually, there's no reason to re-engage.  That's pretty much the reason I laced my comments with a whole LOT of IF's, because it seemed like at best you guys weren't interested in the same game, and more likely there's social communication issues there.

Sounds like the latter is the issue.  Well, now you know and you don't have to pour energy into trying to make something work that isn't going to.

Chris
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Callan S.
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« Reply #26 on: January 15, 2012, 09:58:17 PM »

Quote
So, in Bob's effort to get along and still be able to explore his character, he let his character do his thing off-screen -- but was forced to bring in another character just so that he would have something to do at the table.
Why does it work that way? If someone leaves the party, can't you just divide up time? I've done this while GM'ing - I give the seperated person a few minutes every so often, but the bulk of attention goes to the rest of the group. Generally the solo person gets less time than they would if they stuck with the party, but the capacity to head off is there.

Fred seems to say "Well, do X, but we wont come with you" as if he determines what we do - which he does, since your all joined at the hip. Frankly I'd just have my character march off to do something while he's doing all his planning stuff. What's that Fred, blah blah blah? Okay, see ya! But if the other players can't vote with their feet because when they leave it's all off screen - well then the GM operating that way is enabling Fred to take over. I'd enable people voting with their characters feet. You'd probably find they actually all team up again, without Fred, leaving him to having the few minutes every so often of planning.

Quote
As for "house ruling away your capacity to do such a GM fiat" .... with someone like Fred, I think that this would be disastrous.  The presence of GM fiat capacity is one of the few things that keep him from taking control of the entire game (i.e., from everybody).  I think that I've reached the point where I believe that someone that is that much of a control freak needs to be left sulking (with constructive discussion afterward).  YMMV.
I wasn't talking about all GM fiat...not yet, anyway.

If one person at the table can take over the game from everybody, then that capacity to take over/that power vacuum is still there even if Fred is not playing. And someone will fill that vacuum. Not as bluntly taking it over as Fred. But is that the issue - it's okay for someone to take control of the entire game, as long as it's only in a certain way?

It's worth thinking about whether it's you as GM who normally fills that position, even if not in the same way Fred uses it. Pretty much all traditional RPG design and gaming sessions operate around this sort of power vacuum.

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I'm still struggling a bit with this one.  I would much appreciate a little more articulation here (if you don't mind).
Can you tell me where your struggling with it?
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Double_J
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #27 on: January 17, 2012, 12:57:22 PM »

Hey Callan,

Why does it work that way?  Well, that has to do with the particular group dynamic at the time.  Fred+Jill+Kate = 3/5 of the players (and as stated before, Jill and Kate always follow Fred's lead) ; Jim and Bob are readily marginalized (being that Fred doesn't like their play).

**** Wait just a minute .... I think I just realized something:  Fred didn't really start going over the top until Jill and Kate started showing up (at first it was just Fred -- at which point he was only starting to show signs) ..... Did the addition of Jill and Kate put Fred in the mindset that he was back to running the show? 
Given that Jill and Kate are players in games that he runs; and since Jill and Kate have only known gaming with Fred as GM (and Fred self-admittedly likes to keep a tight control on his games) .......
Holy snot bubbles -- Fred really did think (subconsciously) that he was running the game!!!
Here I was thinking that he was just waiting until he got the comfortable with the group to pounce in and take over.

There's my problem.

So, back to your question ...
It has worked that way because I allowed myself to fall in to the trap of "the squeaky wheel gets the oil".  As well as the reality that if Fred quit the game, then Jill and Kate would have left with him (that whole dynamic has recently changed, what with Kate dropping out of all gaming to take care of the newborn and Jill moving out of state).
And I think that I allowed myself to get pushed around like this for some simple (albeit embarrassing) reasons:
- in the last couple of years, I have found myself in a really low point in my life; and as such, I needed something to go "right" -- and I had somehow defined "right" as "maintaining my gaming group as-is".  I would have seen the act of my group falling apart as yet another indictment of my competence at life (piled on top of having lost my job, being estranged from my family, etc., ).  I'm not sure how my psyche would have handled it a year or so ago.  However, I have been approaching the point that I'm starting to not worry about it so much (which may be a good sign for me).

Fred gobbled-up power over the whole game.  With Fred gone, I expect that power vacuum to be filled by having everything going back to the way it was before Fred -- i.e., all the other players will go back to having their own autonomy (and thus have shared and significant input), the GM will be able to once again have authority to scene-frame and run NPCs as he sees fit, etc.

As to where I'm struggling -- a couple of things ....
1) I'm not sure I'm fully with you on the relativism issue.  I see where you're coming from, but I think it's apples-and-oranges, and therefore not a fully legitimate comparison -- one is a passive/indirect control, where the other is an active/direct control.  And the reason that this makes a difference is at the point of the player(s) making decisions, and thus a matter of player agency.
2) When you have a group of people all trying to fulfill their own interests (whatever those interests may be), it really helps to have an established center of authority.  Sure, you can say "the rule book and game 'contract' has the authority" and just go from there; however, I see that as a flawed position.  Sure, some groups may be fine with this type of dynamic; however, even these groups will run in to problems when the inanimate authority is silent on an issue.  Also, things get interpreted in different ways by different people; interests conflict; etc.  Simply "talking it out" is many times an inadequate solution, especially when there are varying degrees of assertiveness and/or disparity in communication efficacy.

What am I missing?
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #28 on: January 18, 2012, 04:32:06 PM »

It seems plausible he was trying to maintain some sort of control he had in the other group. What's he done in game since those two player from his other group have left, or have you not played with him since then?

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1) I'm not sure I'm fully with you on the relativism issue.  I see where you're coming from, but I think it's apples-and-oranges, and therefore not a fully legitimate comparison -- one is a passive/indirect control, where the other is an active/direct control.  And the reason that this makes a difference is at the point of the player(s) making decisions, and thus a matter of player agency.
I can't really see it that way - when you wack them with a rolled up newspaper when they do X, it's training them not to do X anymore.

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Sure, some groups may be fine with this type of dynamic; however, even these groups will run in to problems when the inanimate authority is silent on an issue.
Ie, the text only gives an incomplete procedure.
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Also, things get interpreted in different ways by different people; interests conflict; etc.
And poor technical writing by the author.

The authority (and the extent of it) is only 'required' because of these failures of design. If you like having that authority, fair enough. But if you don't really want to take up that authority position (or want a position with less authority), there is nothing forcing you to take up an authority position except for a procedure that hasn't been completed and poor technical writing not corrected. Again, if you like the authority position, fair enough. But it's not like your forced into that and don't have a choice about it.

Anyway, that's getting onto another subject and the usual pattern here is to keep threads on one subject and to cover new subjects in new threads (with a link from each thread to each other, which connects them kinda anyway). So I wont go on about it unless a new thread turns up on the subject.
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Double_J
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2012, 11:46:55 PM »

We haven't played since .... or shall I say, i haven't played since.
Some of the other guys have played, with Fred as GM .... They don't seem to get chafed as bad as I do (that's largely an issue of personalities).
We have, however, gotten together a few times.  In those times, there has definitely been some tension -- to the point that others have noticed.  To be fair, I think that the main issue is that both of us are extremely opinionated and bull-headed to a fault; and when those opinions go perpendicular, well .....

"Training":
There is a decided difference between encouraging/discouraging behavior and hard-coding rules of behavior; and the difference lies in the basic underlying psychology ....
 -- hard-coding, i.e. "here's the law -- that's the way it's going to be", tends to rub people the wrong way -- especially the "independently-minded".  When faced with the fact that they have no choice in the matter, there are no few people who's natural instinct is to rebel against it, even if that hard-coding is the way they would do things anyway if left to their own devices (I would know; I've seen myself do it).
 -- simply encouraging/discouraging a particular behavior (through whatever means) still leaves open the capacity of choice.  Fair-minded and beneficent individuals, when shown what the expectations of "good" are, are more inclined to "go with the flow", so to speak, than if you had just "laid down the law".  Once you have that level of buy-in, then it's a lot easier to get someone to self-police their behavior. The reason for this is that they have been given the free will of their own choice in the matter (regardless of how they came to it).
In a perfect world, I would get that buy-in before game start, so that I don't have to play whack-a-mole through the game.  (see how I tied that back to the thread title there?) ;-)

"Procedure that hasn't been completed and poor technical writing":
Where does one draw the line between "bad procedure/writing", and inadequate reading comprehension and/or lack of contextual understanding?  Who determines that?  Presumably the procedure should designate someone to do that; however, we live in an age of fragile egos (thank you very much Dr. Spock), and thus is not always so easy as simply pointing to that said procedure and expecting compliance.  It's not necessarily an issue of "design failure".
As far as I can tell, I oftentimes found myself (wrongly) relinquishing authority in the interest of avoiding conflict for the sake of maintaining the (dysfunctional) integrity of the group.  Which was actually counter-productive to resolving the dysfunctionality.


BTW -- I don't think that we're straying too far ... just as long we keep things within the context of the thread title .
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