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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Reithan on January 17, 2008, 02:28:13 PM



Title: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 17, 2008, 02:28:13 PM
I think I may have created a topic a long time ago about this, but I going to avoid thread necromancy, and, in my mind at least, I know have a slightly different drive to the questions.

Here goes:

I want to create a real feel of 'community' in a game I'm running. So far I've statted out many NPCs, tried to give each NPC a distinct personality and goals and alliances and enemies...but my cast of characters, when playing the game with my players, still seem/play/feel like disconnected points of interest.

How do I tie this all together and make it feel more like the players are part of this community?


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Charlie Gilb on January 17, 2008, 02:49:42 PM
Is your community inter-connected at all? Does each NPC ever deal with other NPC's the players have met? Mostimportantly, are their individual alliances and enemies ever demonstrated to the characters?

In short, you can spend all the time you want statting out and devloping NPC's, but if the players never see them interact with each other then there will never really be a sense of community.

Could you provide an actual play example, or the material that you've been working on specifically? How exactly do your player's react?


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 17, 2008, 04:17:06 PM
Is your community inter-connected at all?
Yes. I've had NPCs working together on common goals, playing the characters off each other to thwart their rivals, having arguments against each other, etc. They are often seen in small groups, solo, and once or twice even in large groups, they are shown to have 'talked to each other' while the PCs were not there, as in shared information.
Does each NPC ever deal with other NPC's the players have met?
Yes, as above.
Most importantly, are their individual alliances and enemies ever demonstrated to the characters?
Yes, as above.

As for actual play examples, at one point the herald to the player cabal (NPC) was abducted during a raid on the player's enemies' sanctum (which most of the higher-ranked NPCs participated in) and the players tracked him down to a certain location. They had bigger fish to fry though, and simply reported the location to their higher-ups. Those NPCs staged a raid on that location while the players were taking care of another issue and found the heral dead, and were almost killed themselves, in an ambush. The players met back up with them as they had just returned and were tending to the wounds of one of theirs while he was complaining about his wounds, at length.

Previously to that, the players met with that NPC to discuss the absence of the herald with that NPC at that NPC's sanctum surrounded by the rest of his personal cabal.

I'm not sure how to characterize the player's reactions - could you possibly break that down into more specific questions?


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Caldis on January 17, 2008, 05:02:19 PM

A big question I'd ask is how are the player related to the community?  Do they have family members, friends, lovers, occuptations, responsibilities, or are your characters mysterious strangers who've wandered into town?  If they are strangers I think it becomes much harder to get a feeling of community.  What you really want is something in the town that the players are invested in and that's harder to get if this isnt their town just a town.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Filip Luszczyk on January 17, 2008, 05:53:58 PM
How prolonged is a typical instance of social interaction between the PCs and your NPCs?

There is this shared information thing going on, but does it happens often that the PCs interact with more than one NPC at the same time? If so, are your NPCs generally acting as a group, or do they have conflicted opinions or the like?

Does it often happen that an NPC casually approaches one or more of the PCs in order to talk about another NPC? Not necessarily in terms of allies/enemies and personal goals, but rather to talk about him or her as a person? I mean, even stuff like "Man, I'm so tired. I hardly slept last night. Bob was snoring so loud, and the walls are so thin..." or "Yuck, I so hate cooked gelatinous cube. I have no idea how Bob can munch it all the time!" or whatever?

I'd say, if you want to have *a sense* of community, it doesn't really matter who the NPCs are and how much is going on between them, if their personal relations don't come up regularly.

Finally, an important thing - you say it feels like disconnected points, but what is the opinions of your players on this matter? Also, are they interested, as a group, in there being a sense of community in the game in the first place and ready to work actively to build it?


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 17, 2008, 07:21:17 PM
A big question I'd ask is how are the player related to the community?  Do they have family members, friends, lovers, occuptations, responsibilities, or are your characters mysterious strangers who've wandered into town?  If they are strangers I think it becomes much harder to get a feeling of community.  What you really want is something in the town that the players are invested in and that's harder to get if this isnt their town just a town.
The characters have had a few fleeting responsibilities, one of the characters that just died secured an official position with the NPCs. A couple of the characters have 1-2 friends in the NPCs. Past that the players seem to shy away from really getting too involved with the NPCs, like they're afraid of what might happen if they let their guard down and become friendly with them.
They took this so far as to actually live outside the town for a while. They've recently moved back in, though.

How prolonged is a typical instance of social interaction between the PCs and your NPCs?
Realtime-wise? Or In-game?
Realtime varies, but in-game-wise the PCs seem to only be interested in interacting with the NPCs on an as-necessary basis. They come in, find out what they have to find out, deal with who they need to and generally retreat.

There is this shared information thing going on, but does it happens often that the PCs interact with more than one NPC at the same time? If so, are your NPCs generally acting as a group, or do they have conflicted opinions or the like?
It varies. Sometimes they'll interact with only 1 NPC, usually it's 2-3 NPCs at a time, though not always the same NPC groups. Once in a while, they'll interact with a bigger group. Both dynamics have been represented in the NPCs. I've had groups of NPCs at odds with each other, helping each other, friendly with each other, helping each other out of necessity, etc.

Does it often happen that an NPC casually approaches one or more of the PCs in order to talk about another NPC? Not necessarily in terms of allies/enemies and personal goals, but rather to talk about him or her as a person? I mean, even stuff like "Man, I'm so tired. I hardly slept last night. Bob was snoring so loud, and the walls are so thin..." or "Yuck, I so hate cooked gelatinous cube. I have no idea how Bob can munch it all the time!" or whatever?
They have once or twice, but the PC's don't seem interested in giving the NPCs a chance for that.

Finally, an important thing - you say it feels like disconnected points, but what is the opinions of your players on this matter? Also, are they interested, as a group, in there being a sense of community in the game in the first place and ready to work actively to build it?
They feel like their characters are there, the NPCs are there, and the 2 directly effect each other, and that there is 'something going on' there...but they don't feel very 'invested in the game' - though, they also don't see this as a huge issue, because they RP with each other and find that to be fairly fun.

I dunno, I guess it's just me trying to 'kick it up a notch'.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Caldis on January 18, 2008, 07:11:36 AM

I'm seeing a big disconnect between your stated goal and any actions on the part of the players to realizing that goal.  In big model terms it looks like you are worried about certain aspects of color related to setting while they aren't all that interested and are looking to deal with situation and ignoring that color.

You might just be stuck in a typical rut where they feel it's them against the world and the town is a part of the world not a part of them.  I wonder about character creation, how did they make their characters (I guess knowing what system you are using would help here)?  Did you involve them in creating the town at all, connecting them to NPC's, fitting their backgrounds into the town?  Do the characters have real lives or are they "adventurers"?  Are they all originally from this town or are they wanderers who stopped by to take jobs in the town?

If your characters didnt start off connected to the town then it may just be a matter of time.  They may slowly develop connections with things that are going on but at this point they may also be expecting that once they solve the problems going on here they will move on to bigger and better things, a new town with it's own people and problems, so why bother getting invested here.

One thing I noticed that may be causing some problems is the talk of superiors.  This may just be my opinion and their may be ways around it but by having others there that are responsible for the situation then the players dont take that responsibility on themselves.  If some NPC is in charge of defending the town and all he does is give the pc's orders on how they can help out then that mission is all they worry about.  If on the other hand the pc's are in charge of defending the town and have to make decisions on how to do it then they will become invested in the town and it's survival.



Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 18, 2008, 08:44:38 AM
I'm seeing a big disconnect between your stated goal and any actions on the part of the players to realizing that goal.  In big model terms it looks like you are worried about certain aspects of color related to setting while they aren't all that interested and are looking to deal with situation and ignoring that color.
I did consider this, and asked the players, and they do seem to be interested in this aspect of the setting/color...however, they seem to feel it's something that's my responsibility.

You might just be stuck in a typical rut where they feel it's them against the world and the town is a part of the world not a part of them.  I wonder about character creation, how did they make their characters (I guess knowing what system you are using would help here)?  Did you involve them in creating the town at all, connecting them to NPC's, fitting their backgrounds into the town?  Do the characters have real lives or are they "adventurers"?  Are they all originally from this town or are they wanderers who stopped by to take jobs in the town?
I do feel, at times, like I'm in that rut.
The system in question is White-Wolf's World of Darkness: Mage: the Awakening.
They made their character mostly by the book, but I re-order the steps a little as a houserule, to place more emphasis on developing characters' backstories.
Now that you mention it, I hadn't thought of it, but most of the character's background were created outside of the town, and then their characters 'relocated' there.
I've been trying to push the characters to develop 'real-lives' as the players seem to enjoy that, and it's something I'd like to see with the game, but it seems like anytime something bad or dangerous happens in-game, the characters suddenly sever all ties and draw back into their shell.

If your characters didnt start off connected to the town then it may just be a matter of time.  They may slowly develop connections with things that are going on but at this point they may also be expecting that once they solve the problems going on here they will move on to bigger and better things, a new town with it's own people and problems, so why bother getting invested here.
There has been no stated or implied (so far) goal or possibility of moving on to a new town. As of right now, the characters are there to stay, and everyone's on-board with that.

One thing I noticed that may be causing some problems is the talk of superiors.  This may just be my opinion and their may be ways around it but by having others there that are responsible for the situation then the players dont take that responsibility on themselves.  If some NPC is in charge of defending the town and all he does is give the pc's orders on how they can help out then that mission is all they worry about.  If on the other hand the pc's are in charge of defending the town and have to make decisions on how to do it then they will become invested in the town and it's survival.
Actually, the current situation is somewhat of the reverse. The characters are the ones responsibly for their area, and generally try to drag their superiors into the action. I've allowed it once or twice when the plot actually warranted it, but as whole, the characters are usually left to their own devices.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 21, 2008, 01:32:31 PM
Does anyone have any ideas on this? :S


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2008, 02:11:30 PM
Lots! And so do others, I'm sure. But let the posting come at its own pace. It's a great topic and very thought-provoking. Because of that, replies are going to be a lot slower, rather than faster.

I mean, that's better, right? To get a long-considered reply than a bunch of shallow attention? Usually, when one or two people engage with a thread, the rest of us relax and just read, hopping in only with something especially relevant. I suspect that time is coming soon for this one. So let it happen, and please remember that posting "hey! my thread! post to it!" kind of stuff tends to turn off that productive reflection and response, rather than drawing it.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 21, 2008, 04:20:55 PM
Sorry, was just worried it'd fall off the first page and thus be lost to the 'no-posty-zone' before anything was resolved.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 21, 2008, 06:01:32 PM
Yeah, um ... well, here's the thing. If that happens, it's not for you to restore it. That's called "bumping" and it often happens at other forum sites, but you shouldn't do it here. Actually, check out a recent thread in Site Discussion all about this very issue, and you'll see my suggestions for when posting to your own thread, especially after your own post, can be done constructively.

Let's get back to the community discussion now. It's a great topic. I'll weigh in after I manage to catch up on my backlog of threads I want to post to.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Web_Weaver on January 22, 2008, 04:19:45 AM
Hey Reithan,

I have had some similar experiences in the past, and I have even noticed the same withdrawing from NPC interactions in my own play on occasion, and I think it has a lot to do with trust.

Take this instance:

Our GM for this game had taken great pains to ensure we all created characters that fit in with the tribal community that served as the backdrop of our game, (Gloranthan HeroQuest) and the character creation system also supports this community focus. However, due to the player's character preferences and the initial direction of the campaign the sense of community investment was lost quite quickly.

So the GM asked us all for details of who we considered parent figures in our community. A simple request but one that rang alarm bells in my head, and I think in the heads of a few of my fellow players. The reason for this alarm was purely due to the fear that the GM was just trying to gain some kind of leverage or angle against all of us as a group by using back-story. This reflex is based on years of playing the kind of game where close relationships are basically of two types, character owned resources or contacts, which are relied upon by the player and the GM as sources of information, and quick scenario hooks which drive the game towards a fairly linear adventure i.e. your brother has been kidnapped by the clan next door.

Now in this instance the GM had nothing of the kind in mind, and purely wanted to introduce an elderly and slightly strange NPC that had a good memory of all of our characters lives and those of their parents. It was partly colour, partly an introduction to a new resource, and mainly a reminder that we had all lived here for most of our lives and we had connections with them regardless of our disparate characters. But, the fact that I had this reaction indicates a suspicion on my part as to the GMs intentions, which was born out of many years of adventurous-party play which had nothing to do with such issues.

Interestingly, I cant see many other ways for the GM to calm these reactions apart from demonstration. The kind of assurances I would need would be purely based on how such situations were used by the GM in the long term. You could lay down some rules over how such things are handled but the real test would be if these rules were adhered to.

So my best suggestion is to discuss the issues from the angle of trust and player investment, and discuss the kinds of situations that could arise if the PCs did become close to NPCs with an eye to who would be in control in those situations.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: TonyLB on January 22, 2008, 05:40:28 AM
Short answer:  Give different NPCs different levels of involvement in the community.  An asocial hermit does as much to make the structure of a community dramatically explicit as does the totally connected mover/shaker.

Long answer:  I have a friend who was in Peace Corps, and she related to me another corps-member's strategy for coming into a new place and immediately finding the person most intimately connected throughout the whole community:  Ask for something impossible.  "I want a light-purifying system from the school, so our light doesn't get so dirty ... who would I talk to about that?"  Apparently (I get second-hand) this strategy would consistenty have whole communities pointing at one guy in their midst, saying "Oh, go see Mbeke ... he'll be able to help you out," and that guy (often of low social status) turned out to be the most central member of the whole social network.  Isn't that neat?

My intuition is that simulating some of that feeling ... the idea that there are people who act as lynchpins to the whole social structure, would both make it easier to present the community in a sane amount of time and effort and would make the community seem more real and convincing.

Great topic!


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 22, 2008, 10:29:06 AM
Web: I do think a lot of their reluctance may have to do with trust. They sort of seem to expect a certain adversarily relationship with their GM/DM/ST.

That begin said, I try to remain fair and objective and just present events and stories that will be compelling, not ones designed to "test the characters." However, this being a horror-themed setting a lof of these encounters do "test the characters" anyway. I mean, it is the "World of Darkness" not the world of friends and ponies.

Tony: For the short answer, I think I do somewhat have this set up already. I mean, there are NPCs in varying degrees of political power, NPCs with varying degrees of actual competance, and many varied personalities and drives among those NPCs.

I like the insight in your Long Answer, but I'm not sure how I could use that outside of just giving that tip to my players and subsequently exploiting it.

I think what you're trying to say is the create a sort of "community liason" NPC. There has been this NPC at times, in the player's herald NPC - however he was killed and has yet to be successfully replaced (one of the players killed his successor [another player] in a duel). So - this position may be filled again in the future, but for very in-character reasons the position's beginning to be looked on as somewhat 'cursed.'


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 23, 2008, 09:00:37 AM
I put a little more thought in on it and was thinking, with the Peace-Corps 'hub effect' on a community, perhaps it would be useful, when constructing an NPC community for players to interact with, to create a sort of 'web' diagram?

Like, you could put that hub person or persons at the top, then link from that person to others in the community, and put a short description of what that link is, then maybe even links from those down to another level.

I figure if you put in 2 or 3 levels and then just fleshed out the links you could probably create a lot of depth there - then just 'background' the rest of the social structure.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Paul Czege on January 23, 2008, 02:04:06 PM
Hey,

How do I tie this all together and make it feel more like the players are part of this community?"

I think you're close to doing it. But I think you might not be truly processing the advice that folks have given into a general paradigm for achieving "community". I think you might be looking at the advice as suggested techniques. "Superiors" are a problem if it means the player characters have no authority. But "left to their own devices" is just as much a problem if it means the player characters aren't being troubled by people's needs, and those needs coming into conflict with responsibilities, and the needs of others.

What you want always in the front of your mind is that the player characters are inherently *significant* in this community. That means they have people relying on them, they have responsibilities, and those responsibilities come with problems.

"Captain, my mother is dire sick. I just can't do the morning watch tomorrow. And maybe not for a few days."
"Sir, it's clear the councilman is open to our bribes. Should I pay him for his vote?"
"Dammit Kenneth, your so called 'guards' are the brothel's most regular customers!"

And if they don't have responsibilities then they have people who want them to assume responsibilities.

"Gladwin, you're highly spoken of. My daughter has been gravely dishonored by the Baron. I'd be grateful if you'd press her honor upon the villain in a duel. I'm sorely tempted to do it myself, but I'm an old man."
"Draco, we need your help."
"Carlton, my daughter has put her mind to making a husband of you. It'll be a lot less painful if you just accept it."

If you're making the players work for this significance you're working against your goal of having them integrated in the community. And it's not about crafting some static background web you hope will grab them with its depth. When you're thinking of how an individual NPC should react to a player character, simply imagine how they need the character, or if the character has responsibilities, or the player has real desires for the character, imagine how the NPC's needs might be a problem for those responsibilities and desires. Treat the characters like everyone in the community unconsciously knows they're significant.

Paul


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 23, 2008, 04:27:31 PM
"Superiors" are a problem if it means the player characters have no authority.
The way the structure of authority is set up in this setting (based on the game books) is about analogous to the setup between State & Federal in the US Government.
The player characters' 'Cabal' is the State level here. They manage they own members and their own area and are the 'law' in that arena.
The local 'Consilium' has authority ove disputes between cabals, or over issues that would affect more than one cabal, or the community in general.

So, the players have plenty of authority in their own 'arena'.

But "left to their own devices" is just as much a problem if it means the player characters aren't being troubled by people's needs, and those needs coming into conflict with responsibilities, and the needs of others.
Hmm, if I follow your logic here, then the problem is my players' characters have a decent dose of responsibilities, but aren't been troubled by other people's needs.

Their main responsibility is to reside over their own members and their chosen/assigned territory.
Unfortunately, in the setting of the game, disparate cabals and mages in general are fairly standoffish. It's a game system that serves to promote political positioning and intrigue. I suppose in terms of this setting, the common way another mage or cabal of mages would express a need to the characters would be in terms of a request for a favor, or in the form of some type of jockeying to get them to take care of something by either placing it in their juisdiction, or trying to trick them into thinking it already is...

What you want always in the front of your mind is that the player characters are inherently *significant* in this community. That means they have people relying on them, they have responsibilities, and those responsibilities come with problems.

And if they don't have responsibilities then they have people who want them to assume responsibilities.
I think this may actually be part of the problem: the players' responsibilities. The community here basically 'gifted' the player characters at the start of the game (over a year ago, IRL) with their own territory. The catch here is that they gave it to them because it's a trouble area no one else wanted. So, the players' responsibility is basically to either solve, or at least contain the trouble this area causes.

This seems like it may be antithetical to the rest of what you're suggesting.

If you're making the players work for this significance you're working against your goal of having them integrated in the community. And it's not about crafting some static background web you hope will grab them with its depth. When you're thinking of how an individual NPC should react to a player character, simply imagine how they need the character, or if the character has responsibilities, or the player has real desires for the character, imagine how the NPC's needs might be a problem for those responsibilities and desires. Treat the characters like everyone in the community unconsciously knows they're significant.
I don't think I'm making them work for significance. They have significance, I'm mroe trying to make them work for respect, as in this setting the heirarchy is a 'meritocracy'. Respect is basically the key factor to the whole political system. So, I don't want the players walking in with a couple cool tricks and having the whole community suddenly swoon over them - it would create a huge power upset and a big play imbalance.

I'm fine with the NPCs needing the characters to do something, or expecting them to handle certain things, or helping the characters out when they need it.

Not sure how to tie this all together, so I'm gonna stop typing for the moment and think some more on it. Please feel free to expand on any of this in the meantime. That would be most helpful.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 23, 2008, 05:14:48 PM
I once played in a game of Dark Ages Vampire where the GM tried the exact same thing, using the Constantinople sourcebook: The player characters came there, a disconnected band of Vampires without real goals or ties, and they easily became part of the community. It was the best part of that game (one of my favourites, ever). We embraced the rich tapestry of NPCs, the different fractions and all that stuff. Each of us started earning his place in the community, quickly picking their “leader” among the NPCs (and each a different one, as if were). Some minor NPCs gained significance as some player just grabbed them, making them a romantic interest or whatever. Others we made up during play, like servants, ghouls, even a childe.

What was the difference to your situation? I think it was the players’ attitude. In my example, two things were there on the players’ side: (a) a genuine interest in colourful NPCs and the game’s background, and (b) a willingness to let our PCs get into trouble.

I certainly see a lack of the second with your group. Maybe this is just a die-hard gamer habit from those games where the GM would just always spoil your plans because, y’know, that was his job. The players need to understand that getting their PCs into trouble will make the game more interesting. They need to trust you that you’ll give them a chance to sort that trouble out again.

The first part, now, if that’s lacking, then maybe you need different NPCs—or your players just aren’t interested at all in what you are trying to achieve. But let’s assume they would generally be interested. Maybe they have their own idea of what kind of NPC they’d like to meet and engage with.

Now, how can you tackle both of these issues? I suggest that the good old trick of “talking about it up front” might be a solution worth considering. Have you tried it?


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 23, 2008, 05:40:11 PM
I certainly see a lack of the second with your group. Maybe this is just a die-hard gamer habit from those games where the GM would just always spoil your plans because, y’know, that was his job. The players need to understand that getting their PCs into trouble will make the game more interesting. They need to trust you that you’ll give them a chance to sort that trouble out again.

...

I suggest that the good old trick of “talking about it up front” might be a solution worth considering. Have you tried it?
I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head with this one.

They are, definitely most concerned about me killing them off. Granted a few player characters have died during the course of the game...but I'll explain it like I've explained it to them. I DO NOT kill characters. What I DO do is let characters kill themselves. To explain further. There are dangerous things in the game. I do not conspire and plot and lpan to find ways to kill the characters, but I do believe in the importance of consequences.

For example, so far 2 characters have died because, in the midst of a dangerous situation, they seperated from the group without any sort of plan or safeguards in place.
One was ambushed while out of sight of the other characters by an opponent they already knew to be in the area, the other KNOWINGLY walking out into a battle to act as bait - without discussing this plan with the others.

That fully explained, I try very hard to NOT become an adversarial GM.

But I think, so far, the group's combined extensive history of playing games with GMs who thought otherwise is handicapping them quite severly.

I did discuss everything up-front before we even wrote up characters, and we all agree we wanted to play a strictly Narrativist game. (after discussing the GNS model and other games we'd all played and the type of play we'd like to see in the future game, including specific examples)...however, they were unwilling to let any risk in and slowly strategized their way fully into Gamist territory.

So, we sat down and talked it all up again, and we settled on "Narrativist/Gamist"...

...a few months later we're now into "Gamist/Narrativist" territory,  I think. It's hard to tell anymore.

So, I suppose we could have yet another talk, but I feel like it's going to be more of the same: Everyone saying "Yeah, we wanna play narrativist, we all love a great story!" But then, when push comes to show, they'll stick to strategizing everything out so I don't come along and drop a safe on them...even though I'm not trying to.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 23, 2008, 05:56:28 PM
Okay, here's a suggestion. It's not meant as a criticism, just as an example of how I handle situations like the ones you described, where player characters might get killed. Heck, maybe you even did something of the likes.

In your first example, I would have told the player: "You know that NPC X is out there, don't you?" Just to make sure he does. "He might attack you, and he's more capable than you are." And if that player still insists on going there, so be it. Let the PC die.

Same in the second example. "You know, you might get killed", is a line that I sometimes used. It's a warning sign. What it achieves is that the players don't constantly look for potentially lethal traps because they know there will be a clear warning. Players in my games have decided to ignore the warning several times. That was a real statement, about what mattered to them. It was fun. Sometimes the PCs survived, sometimes they didn't. I was in a comfortable position: I had warned them. I had not forced them into taking that risk.

As for the gamist/narrativist thing, I very strongly recommend to spare these two words (and the third one that goes along) when talking about this with your players. I'm not going to play the GNS cop because that's not my job, but I have a feeling it would also benefit this discussion if we could just leave the jargon out of it.

- Frank


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 23, 2008, 10:53:17 PM
Heck, maybe you even did something of the likes.
Yup, I always do. Though, I don't give more than 1 warning, and it isn't always explicit.
For example, when the character left and got ambushed, I mentioned that "you don't know where <enemy> is right now, are you sure you wanna go up there?" and he proceeded anyway.

As for the gamist/narrativist thing, I very strongly recommend to spare these two words (and the third one that goes along) when talking about this with your players. I'm not going to play the GNS cop because that's not my job, but I have a feeling it would also benefit this discussion if we could just leave the jargon out of it.
I don't usually bring it up in specifically those terms. I bring it up more in terms of "combat & strategy" versus "drama, plot & intrigue".
They're not so much into the theory-whoring as I am, and though they're smart enough to grasp it, they just don't care to.
So, I have the GNS wheels turning in my head as well as they can, but the conversation is generally along the lines of what sort of scenes they'd like to see, what sort of activities they want the characters to do, etc.

So far theie "ideal itenerary" for their characters has involved politics, mystery, drama, horror and exploring points of the theme of the game.
Their actual play though, has mostly involved plotting, strategizing and killing things and taking their stuff.
Normally I'd just go "whatever" and go with the flow as I have nothing against gamist play - but this doesn't seem to be entirely satisfying for them, as they know it's not what they're trying to do - it's just what they keep doing...

Not sure if that makes sense.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 01:27:03 AM
Hi Reithan,

Sure, this makes sense!

Quote
I bring it up more in terms of "combat & strategy" versus "drama, plot & intrigue"

Good to hear. So, what they say and what they do is not the same thing. I can only guess as to why, and my guess remains: Die-hard gamer habits. They just don’t know what else they should do, in order to engage with your background in the way they say they want to engage.

There is a lot of good advice to you as the GM in this thread, and I can point you to several other threads that might help you further improve your GMing techniques for this mode of play, but really I think that’s not the problem. The problem is, as long as your players block, you are not getting anywhere.

Maybe I am overstressing the point, but I have a feeling, so I’ll press it a bit further. While you play, do you comment a lot “out of character” on what’s happening? Do you explicitly and communicate about your ideas and goals as players (and authors) of a given scene while you are playing that scene? Do you, the GM, explain stuff to the players that their characters don’t know, in order to help them understand the situation and be able to address it like authors and push it in a direction they find interesting?

Or is it more like: Whatever you say your character says; you only know what your character knows?

- Frank


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: TonyLB on January 24, 2008, 05:26:19 AM
I think what you're trying to say is the create a sort of "community liason" NPC. There has been this NPC at times, in the player's herald NPC - however he was killed and has yet to be successfully replaced (one of the players killed his successor [another player] in a duel). So - this position may be filled again in the future, but for very in-character reasons the position's beginning to be looked on as somewhat 'cursed.'
Wellll ... yes, and no.  I do think that a character who is conscious of how he's tied in to the whole community is important.  But I also think that it's important that there be NPCs who are not aware of the fact that they (like everyone else) are tied in to the whole community.

Look at it this way:  As GM, you have all of the connections and interactions in mind, yes?  It takes a lot of mental energy, in fact, to keep them all in mind.  "If Edgar sets a dismantled car up on blocks in his yard, Morgan his Homes-and-Gardens-obsessed neighbor across the street is going to be incensed, which means that as union boss he's going to be more intransigent in the strike talks, which means ...."  This is a chain of cause and effect which should crop up pretty well instantly when you think about the community.

The trick I'm suggesting is to make sure that, even though you the GM have that in mind, Edgar the character does not realize any of that.  Actual people have different levels of understanding of their impact on the community, and its impact upon them.

And the people who don't get it are, fundamentally, one of the main driving factors for good community-related PC missions.  Why is Maggie on the edge of bankruptcy?  Because she can't work in the factory, because the union talks are so screwed up, because of Edgar and his stupid '67 Thunderbird!  The PCs are the ones (one presumes) who are connected throughout the community, and have the leverage to go and convince Edgar of a better plan (or perhaps just help him fix the car!) in order to untangle the whole chain of human consequence.

You've got to have people who are filamented through the community, and can work with it as a whole, and you've got to have people who barely even understand that they're part of a community at all.  Together, they create the funny, push-and-pull reality of a vibrant human community.

Does that make any sense?  I'm having the hardest time getting this intuition out into the open light of words.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 07:04:59 AM
Good to hear. So, what they say and what they do is not the same thing. I can only guess as to why, and my guess remains: Die-hard gamer habits. They just don’t know what else they should do, in order to engage with your background in the way they say they want to engage.

There is a lot of good advice to you as the GM in this thread, and I can point you to several other threads that might help you further improve your GMing techniques for this mode of play, but really I think that’s not the problem. The problem is, as long as your players block, you are not getting anywhere.
I definitely agree here. As such, I wouldn't even be so worried about it if it was just them blocking because the game is currently already how they like it, but they currently seem to WANT the game to be where we were talking about - but seem incapable of letting the game do that.

Maybe I am overstressing the point, but I have a feeling, so I’ll press it a bit further. While you play, do you comment a lot “out of character” on what’s happening? Do you explicitly and communicate about your ideas and goals as players (and authors) of a given scene while you are playing that scene? Do you, the GM, explain stuff to the players that their characters don’t know, in order to help them understand the situation and be able to address it like authors and push it in a direction they find interesting?

Or is it more like: Whatever you say your character says; you only know what your character knows?
I think what you might be getting at here is the difference between Nar and Sim. I think you may be right. We've talked a lot about wanting to foster certain themes, wanting to develop certain character aspects and different types of drama we'd like to see in game, but overall in game, I think my tending has been more towards, as you're saying, just trying to get everyone immersed in the setting.

Honestly, 99% of my gaming experience as a player has been with strictly Gamist venues, so I think it's just a matter of me not being fully polished when it comes to other types of gameplay there, though, I don't fully think this invalidates the problem of the players blocking any non-Gamist play inadvertantly. I would say, during a game, we do tend to think/say things more towards an in-character mindset, outside of any random off-topic discussion.

I'm not sure if this swings us hard into Sim territory, because it seems to me that to explore things like Theme and Character Development, you'd need a Setting and Character with which to explore them...maybe that's just my inexperience with good Nar gaming talking, though.

Wellll ... yes, and no.  I do think that a character who is conscious of how he's tied in to the whole community is important.  But I also think that it's important that there be NPCs who are not aware of the fact that they (like everyone else) are tied in to the whole community.
You may be onto something here, though, I must have missed it in your initial discussion.

The trick I'm suggesting is to make sure that, even though you the GM have that in mind, Edgar the character does not realize any of that.  Actual people have different levels of understanding of their impact on the community, and its impact upon them.

And the people who don't get it are, fundamentally, one of the main driving factors for good community-related PC missions.  Why is Maggie on the edge of bankruptcy?  Because she can't work in the factory, because the union talks are so screwed up, because of Edgar and his stupid '67 Thunderbird!  The PCs are the ones (one presumes) who are connected throughout the community, and have the leverage to go and convince Edgar of a better plan (or perhaps just help him fix the car!) in order to untangle the whole chain of human consequence.
I suppose then, a better way to get into this sort of web is to build it from the other side. Instead of building a web of connections and trying to get it to shine through in the plot, build a plot hook, and then connect it back up into the community.

Using you example, rather than starting from Edgar's end and saying, "Well, Edgar lives near Morgan, what can we do with that? Ok - Edgar pissed off Moragn, what happens? Ok, Maggie lost her job and she goes looking to the PCs for help.
Instead, go, "Maggie's been laid off at he factory and is looking for help - why? Well, maybe there was a strike, who's in charge of that? Morgan. Ok - why would he do that? He's pissed off. Why? Well, maybe his neighbor pissed him off, who's that? Edgar. How's Edgar piss him off? Wrecked up his neighborhood with an eyesore in his front lawn."

That jive better with your idea?

Does that make any sense?  I'm having the hardest time getting this intuition out into the open light of words.
Yeah, it's making sense, I'm just not sure it's the same sense you're wanting it to make, so if I don't seem to have grasped it still, please explain further, or at least let me know I got it right, if that's the case. :)

Thanks again, guys!


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 07:51:10 AM
Okay, I don’t mean to be rude, but we need to get GNS off the table for now. What we are talking about here, in Big Model terms, are Techniques and Ephemera, and Exploration when it comes to actual content. We are talking about the blow-by-blow “what happens at the table”. GNS is the large scale interpretation over a long instance of play, so it’s not relevant at this moment.

Your Techniques and Ephemera (i.e. what you do, moment-to-moment, while you play) do not enable your stated goals for Exploration results, “plot, drama, intrigue” and “creating a feel of community”. That’s the disconnect I see, at the moment. As long as you don’t have that disconnect sorted out, I daresay you are nowhere near any Shared Creative Agenda happening in your group.

What you are doing is emphatically not Sim. It may, however, be something that has been termed “Sim by habit” (which I as an advocate of Sim don’t find entirely fair). “Sim by habit” refers to a whole bundle of Techniques that some gamers just continue applying, without reflection, because “it has to be that way”.

So, you can state a goal (“drama”), but if you only ever “play your character” because you think that’s just “how role-playing works”, then you’re not getting anywhere. Especially when you feel that for your character to succeed (which you want him too), you are required to keep him out of trouble, because that’s also just “how role-playing works”.
   
It’s like saying: “I want to cook Chinese food tonight, so I’ll buy a steak and grill it because that’s just how cooking works.”

You can only ever get past those habits if you create an awareness of the disconnect in all participants. And as unlearning those habits is hard to do, I suggest you can only do it if you maintain an ongoing communication about it. It’s not enough to have some vague idea of wanting to change something before you start. You need to state clearly that you want to change the way you play, and how, in the moment-by-moment interaction, and then see to it that you really do.

And you also need to get the concerns your players might have off the table. You need to accept their concerns and you need to resist the urge to get self-defendant. You need to reassure them and make sure they understand what you are about.

- Frank


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 08:22:30 AM
Okay, I don’t mean to be rude, but we need to get GNS off the table for now. What we are talking about here, in Big Model terms, are Techniques and Ephemera, and Exploration when it comes to actual content. We are talking about the blow-by-blow “what happens at the table”. GNS is the large scale interpretation over a long instance of play, so it’s not relevant at this moment.

Your Techniques and Ephemera (i.e. what you do, moment-to-moment, while you play) do not enable your stated goals for Exploration results, “plot, drama, intrigue” and “creating a feel of community”. That’s the disconnect I see, at the moment. As long as you don’t have that disconnect sorted out, I daresay you are nowhere near any Shared Creative Agenda happening in your group.
Ok, while I don't find this rude, I do find it incredibly frustrating and counter-intuitive.
I've run into this sort of talk a lot here on the Forge and I guess I'll come right out with it: I don't get it.
I understand that Technique and Ephemera don't inherently define a SCA, but they are still peices of it, and they still impact it, just like every other peice of the puzzle.
It's, to me, like saying, "Well, you can make a lot of different types of houses out of bricks, so the type of bricks you use really has no effect on what type of house you end up with." It's a logical fallacy.
I'm not really sure were to go with this past that, so I'll just leave it there. Please explain or argue it as you see fit.

What you are doing is emphatically not Sim. It may, however, be something that has been termed “Sim by habit” (which I as an advocate of Sim don’t find entirely fair). “Sim by habit” refers to a whole bundle of Techniques that some gamers just continue applying, without reflection, because “it has to be that way”.

So, you can state a goal (“drama”), but if you only ever “play your character” because you think that’s just “how role-playing works”, then you’re not getting anywhere. Especially when you feel that for your character to succeed (which you want him too), you are required to keep him out of trouble, because that’s also just “how role-playing works”.
   
It’s like saying: “I want to cook Chinese food tonight, so I’ll buy a steak and grill it because that’s just how cooking works.”
I have an idea what you're getting at here, and as I said, I think we do fall into this category.
However, this doesn't really shed any light on where this is wrong - just that you think it is wrong.
So, I direct you back to my previous statement. To explore theme & character development & drama, does one not need characters and settings defined at some point?
I mean, if we all just started without characters, with no setting and litterally anything could happen: knights, unicorns, mecha, ponies, spacemen, cavemen, anything. Then, I'd see that as just a garbled lump of chaos - not a story. And "Story Now" is somewhat nuetered with no story, wouldn't you agree?

You can only ever get past those habits if you create an awareness of the disconnect in all participants. And as unlearning those habits is hard to do, I suggest you can only do it if you maintain an ongoing communication about it. It’s not enough to have some vague idea of wanting to change something before you start. You need to state clearly that you want to change the way you play, and how, in the moment-by-moment interaction, and then see to it that you really do.

And you also need to get the concerns your players might have off the table. You need to accept their concerns and you need to resist the urge to get self-defendant. You need to reassure them and make sure they understand what you are about.
I'd like to come back to this point after the above-mentioned ones are resolved.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 08:54:54 AM
Okay, I don’t mean to be rude, but we need to get GNS off the table for now. What we are talking about here, in Big Model terms, are Techniques and Ephemera, and Exploration when it comes to actual content. We are talking about the blow-by-blow “what happens at the table”. GNS is the large scale interpretation over a long instance of play, so it’s not relevant at this moment.

Your Techniques and Ephemera (i.e. what you do, moment-to-moment, while you play) do not enable your stated goals for Exploration results, “plot, drama, intrigue” and “creating a feel of community”. That’s the disconnect I see, at the moment. As long as you don’t have that disconnect sorted out, I daresay you are nowhere near any Shared Creative Agenda happening in your group.
Ok, while I don't find this rude, I do find it incredibly frustrating and counter-intuitive.
I've run into this sort of talk a lot here on the Forge and I guess I'll come right out with it: I don't get it.
I understand that Technique and Ephemera don't inherently define a SCA, but they are still peices of it, and they still impact it, just like every other peice of the puzzle.
It's, to me, like saying, "Well, you can make a lot of different types of houses out of bricks, so the type of bricks you use really has no effect on what type of house you end up with." It's a logical fallacy.
I'm not really sure were to go with this past that, so I'll just leave it there. Please explain or argue it as you see fit.

What you are doing is emphatically not Sim. It may, however, be something that has been termed “Sim by habit” (which I as an advocate of Sim don’t find entirely fair). “Sim by habit” refers to a whole bundle of Techniques that some gamers just continue applying, without reflection, because “it has to be that way”.

So, you can state a goal (“drama”), but if you only ever “play your character” because you think that’s just “how role-playing works”, then you’re not getting anywhere. Especially when you feel that for your character to succeed (which you want him too), you are required to keep him out of trouble, because that’s also just “how role-playing works”.
   
It’s like saying: “I want to cook Chinese food tonight, so I’ll buy a steak and grill it because that’s just how cooking works.”
I have an idea what you're getting at here, and as I said, I think we do fall into this category.
However, this doesn't really shed any light on where this is wrong - just that you think it is wrong.
So, I direct you back to my previous statement. To explore theme & character development & drama, does one not need characters and settings defined at some point?
I mean, if we all just started without characters, with no setting and litterally anything could happen: knights, unicorns, mecha, ponies, spacemen, cavemen, anything. Then, I'd see that as just a garbled lump of chaos - not a story. And "Story Now" is somewhat nuetered with no story, wouldn't you agree?

You can only ever get past those habits if you create an awareness of the disconnect in all participants. And as unlearning those habits is hard to do, I suggest you can only do it if you maintain an ongoing communication about it. It’s not enough to have some vague idea of wanting to change something before you start. You need to state clearly that you want to change the way you play, and how, in the moment-by-moment interaction, and then see to it that you really do.

And you also need to get the concerns your players might have off the table. You need to accept their concerns and you need to resist the urge to get self-defendant. You need to reassure them and make sure they understand what you are about.
I'd like to come back to this point after the above-mentioned ones are resolved.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Bret Gillan on January 24, 2008, 09:25:42 AM
I learned this from Vincent and DitV, but it seems to be the best way to make a community is to create situations, determine what individual NPCs want out of that situation, and specifically what they want from the PCs with regards to that situation. A large part of community is social aid and social pressure. I live in an apartment with a few other people. There are certain things they expect from me: cleanliness, regard for their space and belongings, not having loud sex with my bedroom door open. They also occasionally pressure me to do things: watch movies with them or wash the dishes or whatever.

Now, all that makes for a boring game, but if you blow it up to situations that make for cool stories it still makes sense. A dragon hatchling is discovered. A local hunter wants the PCs to help him hunt it and get it's claws and scales and skull as a trophy. A local druid things it is a sign from the gods of benevolence or whatever, and wants the PCs to help her tame it. The PCs become a part of that community when those wants are expressed, and as they witness and get caught up in the tension that emerges between the hunter and the druid. Also bring in the fact that whichever way they go will have consequences on the community as a whole, the relationship between the druid and the hunter, and so on.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 09:31:45 AM
I understand your frustration and know it from first hand experience, but I think we can only do one of two things in this thread: Explain the Big Model, or talk about strategies to improve your play experience. Both at the same time simply will not work out.

Also, I am frustrated myself because I clumsily deleted the long reply I had been writing, so I’ll try again. Please bear in mind that I don’t know you and your group and might just plainly be wrong.

I think your players right now don’t see it as their job to actively work towards the stated goal (“drama”), but rather, they just play their characters like “these guys would act”, and how “these guys would act” is most likely to stay out of trouble. The players are doing all of this without reflecting much about it, because it’s how they learned it and how they think it has to be. This is what you need to make clear to them, without offending them.

You can only get to the “drama” if they start keeping “drama” as a goal in the back of their heads, and start thinking about how what their characters do helps or hinders “drama” to happen. However, you can only ask that of them if you also convince them that you, as well, are working towards the goal to create “drama” (as opposed to, say, “spoiling their plans.”) If they have some concerns about this, based on past experiences, then you need to accept these concerns as valid and work that out. You are requesting them to change how they play, so it’s only fair that they may ask as much of you.

Also, I suggest you tell them up front what your goals were in creating that set-up of NPCs. Invite them to request any NPC they would like to see in the community. Get as much of their input as you can, and be sure to use it! Also, be sure to listen to the good advice in this thread with regard to specific GMing Techniques you can use.

And the crucial part is: Continue to talk about it while you play. If you don’t, you’ll fall back into old patterns all too easily. Specifically, all of you state up front their intentions, whenever they're not obvious. Not the character’s intention, the player’s intention! If a scene is just about getting to know an NPC, then the players might as well know it, so they don’t feel inclined to question him for some kind of plot-relevant information they think you want to reveal to them. If the player wants to force a certain conflict, then you might as well know so you can work with him instead of unintentionally spoiling it. And so forth.

When you start doing that, you’ll start developing Techniques that will enable you, as a group, to go where you want to go with your game. That’s necessary, because right now, you always wind up in the same ol’ place instead. So once these new Techniques start working, then you can think about exactly where it is that you want to go. Then you can think about what it is about “drama” and “feel of community” that you as a group are interested in, in terms of personal investment and long term pay-off. And then, if you get that together, you’ll have the big picture. Then you’ll have Creative Agenda nailed down.

Does that make sense?

- Frank


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 09:50:28 AM
I understand your frustration and know it from first hand experience, but I think we can only do one of two things in this thread: Explain the Big Model, or talk about strategies to improve your play experience. Both at the same time simply will not work out.
Agreed, in that we can't do both at once, though, imo, we can still do both in this thread - just not simultaneously.

I think your players right now don’t see it as their job to actively work towards the stated goal (“drama”), but rather, they just play their characters like “these guys would act”, and how “these guys would act” is most likely to stay out of trouble. The players are doing all of this without reflecting much about it, because it’s how they learned it and how they think it has to be. This is what you need to make clear to them, without offending them.
Agreed.

You can only get to the “drama” if they start keeping “drama” as a goal in the back of their heads, and start thinking about how what their characters do helps or hinders “drama” to happen. However, you can only ask that of them if you also convince them that you, as well, are working towards the goal to create “drama” (as opposed to, say, “spoiling their plans.”) If they have some concerns about this, based on past experiences, then you need to accept these concerns as valid and work that out. You are requesting them to change how they play, so it’s only fair that they may ask as much of you.
Hmmm, I think an easy way to possibly 'ease into' that would be to have them start focusing more on their characters' "Vice & Virtue". In the system we're playing (Mage: the Awakening), each character, at creation is assigned a "Vice" and a "Virtue". These are thematic to the character as to what good qualities the character has, and what bad qualities they have. I think a good way for them to start focusing on drama as a goal would be to start trying to push harder at their character's themes here. For example, a character with "Justice" as a virtue may not always do the 'safe' or 'easy' thing, if he thinks he can right some wrong. Or a character with "Hope" or "Faith" as a virtue may similarly break from the strategic mold for his beliefs.

In the same way a character with "Sloth" as a vice simply may not decide to put out the effort necessary to comply with 'best practices' and a character espousing "Wrath" may not always take the safe path when his temper gets the better of him.

What do you think of that Technique? (I think this would fall under Technique - correct me if I'm using the wrong term)

Also, I suggest you tell them up front what your goals were in creating that set-up of NPCs. Invite them to request any NPC they would like to see in the community. Get as much of their input as you can, and be sure to use it! Also, be sure to listen to the good advice in this thread with regard to specific GMing Techniques you can use.
I could be more transparent about this, but I generally do. If they want to find a certain NPC and I don't have one for it - I'll usually oblige. Perhaps I should bring this to their attention and get some discussion of this.

And the crucial part is: Continue to talk about it while you play. If you don’t, you’ll fall back into old patterns all too easily. Specifically, all of you state up front their intentions, whenever they're not obvious. Not the character’s intention, the player’s intention! If a scene is just about getting to know an NPC, then the players might as well know it, so they don’t feel inclined to question him for some kind of plot-relevant information they think you want to reveal to them. If the player wants to force a certain conflict, then you might as well know so you can work with him instead of unintentionally spoiling it. And so forth.
Hmm, I somewhat disagree on this one. I don't mind talking about overal play goals, agreed-upon introduction of player-driven NPCs and the like, but I also don't want to hand-feed every scene to them. If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front. To me, that sort of kills the drama. It's hard to find the middle of a story interesting when you already know the end.

Does that make sense?
Did I start this closing in this thread? I have I just picked up a theme that was already present? lol


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 10:22:38 AM
I think I’m posting too quickly right now, so I’ll back off for a while to let others chime in. However, one quick clarification:

Quote
If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front.

That’s not what I wanted to suggest. I’m not suggesting you state whatever you want to be the outcome of a given scene. That would indeed be boring. I rather suggest that you be clear about the general agenda. An audience with the hierarch is an audience with the hierarch, that’s already pretty clear. But have you ever seen this happen in a RPG:

Player: “I go to Clara’s place.”
GM: “Okay.”
Player: “Who’s there?”
GM: “Let’s see, there should be Clara, her husband, and the kids.”
Player: “Oh, okay, I leave again.”
GM: “Anything else this evening?”

Instead (and maybe that’s a no-brainer to you), I suggest the scene should go something like this:

Player: “I think I’d like to develop a romantic interest in Clara. I want to talk to her, alone. I go to her place.”
GM: “And of course, just as you enter the drive, you see her husband leave in the car with the kids.”
Player: “Cool! I stand in the door for half a minute before I can make myself ring the bell.”
GM: “…”


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 10:33:27 AM
I see what you're saying, and although I don't think we've every talked about this or put any thought into it, I can honestly say I've never observed this issue in our play. The players usually have fairly obvious and straightforward goals when they request a scene, and I'm usually fairly straightforward when framing my own scenes.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Paul Czege on January 24, 2008, 12:31:44 PM
Hey,

This moved a bit quickly for me. I'd like to go back to the "ambushed while out of sight" and "walking out into a battle to act as bait, without discussing this plan with the others" character deaths if I might, because I think it bears on the character significance issue, and on my advice that you treat the characters "like everyone in the community unconsciously knows they're significant".

I think even a "you might die" warning probably wasn't enough that you didn't still actually handle things in a way that worked against your goal of having the characters integrated in the community. And here's why. For the game to be about community the way you want it to, you need to have made a decision as a group that that's what you want, characters who are significant to a community. And if you have, then you want the player to manage his character with the presumption of that significance. Think about the character who walked out into the courtyard to act as bait. That's totally badass. The player had a warning. He chose to allow his character to maybe die. So even if he dies you have to come through with the community significance or you haven't held up your end of the bargain. Remember, you already agreed with the players that the game is about exploring significance within the community. So cripes, have some distraught NPC throw herself onto him as he's bleeding out, at great risk to herself. Then later have her campaigning against the ineffectual guards who did nothing to prevent the senseless slaying of this "community hero". Or have some politician use his death to force a curfew on the community. By not having the community respond as if the character were a significant member of it, you betrayed the agreement. And so the players don't trust in the agreement anymore.

And the character who died "out of sight"...he deserved a significant ending as well.

Years ago in a conversation with Mark Grundy, one of the principals behind the original AmberMUSH, I remarked on the awesome plots that just seemed to emerge from the character play in the MUSH I'd been ghosting in. And he explained to me that experienced MUSH folks secretly message with each other to negotiate the behaviors of their characters. It totally blew my mind. I haven't had the same proscriptive opinion of OOC since.

I think you should work yourselves out of the "without discussing this plan" social dynamic by incorporating OOC conversation.

player: "I want to go out into the courtyard as bait. I think it would be badass."
you: "You might die."
player: "Yeah? Hmm....Still, I want to do it."

And at that point you play it out from the perspective that something significant is happening. Same thing with the character who got ambushed. Discuss it openly. And then let the other players see what's happening. And make it significant. Make it so it celebritizes the character. Don't have him snuffed by a poison dart. Have him assaulted by flurry of thrown knives from a clutch of vile homunculi, who then carve out his liver. If he's significant to the community, his death needs to be a disruption to the community.

Paul


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 12:56:52 PM
So even if he dies you have to come through with the community significance or you haven't held up your end of the bargain. Remember, you already agreed with the players that the game is about exploring significance within the community. So cripes, have some distraught NPC throw herself onto him as he's bleeding out, at great risk to herself. Then later have her campaigning against the ineffectual guards who did nothing to prevent the senseless slaying of this "community hero". Or have some politician use his death to force a curfew on the community. By not having the community respond as if the character were a significant member of it, you betrayed the agreement. And so the players don't trust in the agreement anymore.

And the character who died "out of sight"...he deserved a significant ending as well.

...

And at that point you play it out from the perspective that something significant is happening. Same thing with the character who got ambushed. Discuss it openly. And then let the other players see what's happening. And make it significant. Make it so it celebritizes the character. Don't have him snuffed by a poison dart. Have him assaulted by flurry of thrown knives from a clutch of vile homunculi, who then carve out his liver. If he's significant to the community, his death needs to be a disruption to the community.

Wow. This is a really awesome response. I think this really hits on some stuff that I've been overlooking, though, somehow, inadvertantly becoming better at perhaps, without knowing it?

So far the death-toll in the game is up to 6.
Part of our agreement when beginning to game was that the setting WILL be dangerous. Characters WILL die.

First to die was the one who got ambushed. The characters were being harried by a vampire assassin that was after them for killing off her sire. The character who died had, just before that, really pissed everyone off at him be putting them all in danger by brining a mortal to their sanctum and leading the assassin and her ghouls there, too.
So, they didn't really get behind it as an "OMG! My friend is dead!" event, though they did embrace it as a "How dare that bitch kill one of us!" event.

To that point, that character's death-scene was recorded and posted later for everyone to see, and phrases from it have become common slang for our social group. It was in fact, probably one of the most significant scenes in the game, so far.

The second death was shortly after one of the original cast of characters was revealed to be a plant from the Seers of the Throne (main antagonist group of mages) who was also consorting with old spirits he'd liberated from a sealed atlantean vault. The player group called in the consilium's help and had him murdered in a fairly spectacular manner. As a consequence, the non-allied group they were currently trying to woo to their side became enraged that they would stage such a scene on their property and declared them enemies on the spot - banishing them from their grounds. This fed into a more elaborate story arc then ended with the players decimating that faction's stronghold.

The third was shortly after that and was not significant in any way. One of the players decided he no longer wanted to play his character and wanted to make a new one - so we staged a death scene.

The fourth was the 'bait' scenario. The player who did it had joined the game THAT night, showed little interest in it, really, played in a reckless and sloppy manner with no regard to common sense, character, plot, setting, or ANYTHING really and didn't bother making another character. That said, the death was still significant. It's become a common reference for our group when discussing something as a 'bad idea' and, again, served as a rally-point for the group against a common foe.

The fifth was basically sloppy on my part, we played a session while fairly tired, forgot a lot of things we were doing and the player was generally ready to make a new character so it basically just ended with an enemy using a series of glaring character oversights to pull of a ritual to tear one of the group into peices and that player going, "Sweet I get to make a new character." That being said, this being the second time the group managed to get one of their own killed on consilium grounds, it encited an argument between them and the heirarch, and the characters shot their mouths off in a fairly spectacular manner and got exiled for a month. That, since, has become a bone of contention between them and that specific NPC.

The final and fairly recent fall of a character was from an old dispute between 2 characters. The more agressive of the two challenged the other to a duel, and the challenged mage set up the challenge poorly and lost, not only the stated contest, but his life. This event, so far, I think is the most significant of them, yet. It's cemented a fued between the challenger and the heirarch and also made a public spectacle of both the winning and losing character, who's body was carried away by said heirarch. So far, I think this one will have the biggest lasting impact on the story.

So, I think that last one's ended on a note closer to what you're suggesting, though several in there were just out-of-character based tools to turn over cast members. The first one was arguably the most 'awesome' so far, but it was mainly by accident, whereas the newest one was important maybe even still not so much on purpose, but for a purpose.

I don't know, maybe I'm just rambling.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Paul Czege on January 24, 2008, 01:31:03 PM
6 character deaths? In how many sessions? I'm not sure I could render appropriate significance to six individual PC deaths. (Are there even six deaths in The Godfather?)

Okay...one additional piece of advice. There is no magic bullet technique. Just rendering appropriate significance to character deaths isn't going to solve your play issues. The true solution is to change the way you're thinking about your responsibilities as a GM. (And rendering appropriate significance to player character deaths is just one part of that.) Don't ever think it's your job to manage the reality of the world, or "what the NPC would do," or the consequences that should logically come from a character's actions (however "sloppy" they are). Your job is operate at a much higher level than that. Your job is to operate at the social level of collaborative play around a theme. Think first about drama and theme, what should happen that treats the player character as significant and delivers great drama, and then secondarily you figure out how it makes sense (logically, or whatever) for that to happen. If you can get the social dynamic of your group to where everyone is thinking about drama, and everyone trusts that you, the GM, and the rules aren't going to betray dramatic choices by withholding significance from the outcomes, it'll be awesome.

Paul


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 01:50:18 PM
6 character deaths? In how many sessions? I'm not sure I could render appropriate significance to six individual PC deaths. (Are there even six deaths in The Godfather?)
We've been playing for a bit over a year now. We took one small break in the middle and generally play about once every 2 weeks. I think we're somewhere around 36 sessions in? Not counting individualized 'side sessions' I've run with a few characters. If you don't count the "I just wanna swap characters" deaths, then it's only 4, not 6. And if you don't count the person who just came in and basically just TRIED to get killed cuz she wasn't into it, then it's only 3. 3 deaths in almost 40 sessions over the course of over a year of play isn't horrible, imo. Not to mention the plant was pretty much doomed to die from the beginning and was A-okay with that outcome. So, if you don't count that one...then 2. 2 character deaths.

Okay...one additional piece of advice. There is no magic bullet technique. Just rendering appropriate significance to character deaths isn't going to solve your play issues. The true solution is to change the way you're thinking about your responsibilities as a GM. (And rendering appropriate significance to player character deaths is just one part of that.) Don't ever think it's your job to manage the reality of the world, or "what the NPC would do," or the consequences that should logically come from a character's actions (however "sloppy" they are). Your job is operate at a much higher level than that. Your job is to operate at the social level of collaborative play around a theme. Think first about drama and theme, what should happen that treats the player character as significant and delivers great drama, and then secondarily you figure out how it makes sense (logically, or whatever) for that to happen. If you can get the social dynamic of your group to where everyone is thinking about drama, and everyone trusts that you, the GM, and the rules aren't going to betray dramatic choices by withholding significance from the outcomes, it'll be awesome.

I have been thinking more in that direction lately, which is where the stuff such as the recent duel and vendetta came in, as well as a couple other things I hadn't mentioned. Basically, I started looking for sources to draw inspiration from and my best source so far has been "The Dresden Files" which ran on Sci-Fi channel. There's also a book series that was based on I'd love to get my hands on.

I think, though, you'd cleared away a lot of the fog over this idea I've been poking at. Thank you muchly.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Paul Czege on January 24, 2008, 01:55:43 PM
You're welcome. Good luck.

Paul


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 24, 2008, 02:03:42 PM
I understand your frustration and know it from first hand experience, but I think we can only do one of two things in this thread: Explain the Big Model, or talk about strategies to improve your play experience. Both at the same time simply will not work out.
Agreed, in that we can't do both at once, though, imo, we can still do both in this thread - just not simultaneously.
Well, as we seem to have drawn to a close on the first bit, what about discussing this bit of this now?
Unless there's more open to the first bit I overlooking here - we have seemed to cover a LOT of ground very quickly, so it's likely that I am overlooking something.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 02:45:53 PM
Yeah, better give this a little time to sink. Erm, also, what Paul said!

- Frank


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on January 24, 2008, 04:16:29 PM
Uh, or let's just spin it off (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25605.0). I was feeling in the mood.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Balesir on January 25, 2008, 09:32:15 AM
Hi,

Sorry to wake up after a long 'snooze', but this caught my eye:

Quote
If they're there to have an audience with the hierarch, and he secretly is trying to get them to say something about his rival that he can later turn to his advantage, I don't really want to lay that card on the table right up front.

That’s not what I wanted to suggest. I’m not suggesting you state whatever you want to be the outcome of a given scene. That would indeed be boring. I rather suggest that you be clear about the general agenda. An audience with the hierarch is an audience with the hierarch, that’s already pretty clear.

On the other hand, why not explore what happens when you are upfront about this sort of thing?

Just an off-the-wall suggestion, but you could try discussing with the players - out of character - that you are thinking of having a scene where the Hierarch invites them for interview but secretly wants to get them to admit something about his/her rival.  Ask whether they think the characters (who obviously don't want to let anything slip) should let something slip for the purpose of making the game more fun and opening up some plotlines for you to use.

Given the rut that your players are in, this might just jolt them enough to start considering whether the assumptions they have about 'how this is done' are necessarily true...

And I see it as a no-lose situation, for you.  If they decide that, yes, it would be fun to have made a faux pas with the Hierarch (and you can let them decide if the characters realise that's what they have done, too), then you have a lead-in to plenty of future drama.  If they don't then you have de-prioritised the Gamist-inclined goal of thwarting the Hierarch's machinations and let the players see that the NPC is trying to manipulate their characters - and reduced trust between characters can help make plots and drama, too!

Andy


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 25, 2008, 11:46:39 AM
I disagree on these grounds

Quote from: W. H. Auden
Drama is based on the Mistake. I think someone is my friend when he really is my enemy, that I am free to marry a woman when in fact she is my mother, that this person is a chambermaid when it is a young nobleman in disguise, that this well-dressed young man is rich when he is really a penniless adventurer, or that if I do this such and such a result will follow when in fact it results in something very different. All good drama has two movements, first the making of the mistake, then the discovery that it was a mistake.

Sure, if the characters choose to make that mistake, then indeed it opens the stage for future drama. But by not giving them that information I totally ENSURE drama ensues. Either A. when they are manipulated, or B. when they realize the heirarch is trying to  manipulate them.

Now, on the other hand, if I give them the information and they choose (as I have every inclination to believe they would, based on their history of risk-avoidance) NOT to make that mistake, then no one makes a mistake and no drama is created: The heirarch has made no mistake - he knows he learned nothing. The Players have made no mistakes, they were not manipulated, nor did they experience the drama of discovering manipulation was even a goal. Everyone walks away from the meeting with everything having gone exactly as they thought it did. No drama spawned. :(

Now, at this point, I could FORCE drama, by having the heirarch detain them, interrogate them, or otherwise prove that they were mistaken when they thought he would simply let them get away without his manipulation...but that's basically railroading, IMO.

Also, eeven if we take your suggestion to just let them get away with it and hope that reduced trust will spawn drama - well...no one except the PC's trust was reduced (the heirarch already knows he's a creep) and the PCs probably (based on current actions as well as implied by the scene framing) already don't trust the heirarch. (otherwise, why wouldn't he just ASK for the information?)


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Balesir on January 25, 2008, 02:41:29 PM
Hmm, I think a more accurate definition of drama or story (and definitely a more useful one for roleplaying purposes) is that it consists of escalating attempts to meet a dramatic need that is repeatedly blocked.  Now, the blockage may be a 'Mistake' - or better yet several blocks may share a mistake or misconception as a theme - but not all of the blockages need to be mistakes.

However, that was an aside.

Now, on the other hand, if I give them the information and they choose (as I have every inclination to believe they would, based on their history of risk-avoidance) NOT to make that mistake, then no one makes a mistake and no drama is created: The heirarch has made no mistake - he knows he learned nothing. The Players have made no mistakes, they were not manipulated, nor did they experience the drama of discovering manipulation was even a goal. Everyone walks away from the meeting with everything having gone exactly as they thought it did. No drama spawned. :(

Nothing gained - except a graphic illustration that avoiding the mistake was not a meaningful goal for the players.  What I am trying to say is that, if the players are in a rut as has been described (and goodness knows I have seen that phenomenon before!), then a culture shock sort of approach might be what is needed to get the thought processes working.

Not telling the players seems to me to be driving the players just where you don't want them to go.  You want a mistake/misunderstanding for drama - fine.  But by trying to trick the players into making that mistake you are reinforcing their 'avoid slipping up' mentality by making it an adversarial game between the GM and the players.

I may have got the wrong end of the stick, and if so I apologise and you can just ignore me, but it strikes me that if you draw the players more into the setting up of the drama rather than trying to set it up by fooling them they might see having their characters walk into situations as a fun option rather than as a result of a screw up on their part.

Andy


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 25, 2008, 03:07:17 PM
Hmm, I think a more accurate definition of drama or story (and definitely a more useful one for roleplaying purposes) is that it consists of escalating attempts to meet a dramatic need that is repeatedly blocked.  Now, the blockage may be a 'Mistake' - or better yet several blocks may share a mistake or misconception as a theme - but not all of the blockages need to be mistakes.
To me, that sounds more like 'Suspense' than 'Drama'.

Anywho, I see what you're saying, and I may indeed try it, but it seems to me it has just as many possible problems as the current approach, thus not really being 'better', but just 'different', though probably not any 'worse' either.

That being said, maybe something different is all I really need to shake things up a bit, I'll have to think on it a bit.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 26, 2008, 07:30:18 PM
From here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=25605.msg246708#msg246708):

Ok, I'd like to step back a bit, and try to get this back on a civil note.

I think, to put it in "Forge Terms" this thread is completely 'incoherent'. :P

I'd like to clarify my intent here, and maybe clarify a few things about the 'where I'm coming from' bits. (stuff about my game)

Ok, first, as Caldis said, the group IS flitting from between 2 CAs. HOWEVER, in every discussion we have about what they want out of the game they all throw straight bullseyes at Nar, so I think that intent IS established - but this is open for discussion.

Maybe reward cycle is the disconnect here, I don't know - I've never been fully brought up to speed on all the intricacies of Reward Cycles, I don't think.

Also, Contracycle did bring up a good point - the game is not totally screwed. It has it's ups and downs - but over the course of a YEAR playing, I think that's fairly normal. Overall we all have a good time and look forward to the games. This is more of a question on "My players want X, I want X - we've discussed it and talked about X...but we KEEP GETTING Y!? WHY??"

One thing I would like to point out, though, Frank, and I'm not trying to poke you and rile you, I'm just trying to get you to further explain yourself, as you said this thread is for explainations, anyway:
You said Gareth (though I don't know who that is, I think Caldis? lol) was wrong that you'd never said that any given technique can be used to support any given agenda. I don't think you've said exactly that, but you have repeatedly stated that techniques do not matter to the CA. Any technique can be used with any CA. This seems like the closest shades of grey imaginable, and I'd like it if you could explain a little further to clarify your intent here, if you don't mind.

So, to clarify, one more time, want I wanted was not "ZOMG! FIX MY BROKEN GAME!" what I wanted was "My group keeps doing X, even though they say they want Y, what can I do?"

The obvious answer is: nothing - if the game works, why screw with it?

My answer, even the GAME works and we have fun - I think if we had the fun everone says they want, we'd have MORE fun. I'm trying to IMPROVE my game here, not FIX it.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: ks13 on January 28, 2008, 10:08:10 AM
Reithan,

I took a quick look at the Creative Agenda spin-off thread, but I want to avoid getting bogged down Big Model discussion so I will post here in the original discussion instead.

I had some concerns about the fact that players chose to kill of their characters. This is usually a bad sign (lack of engagement), but it seems that they were couple of extreme concepts that just didn't work. That's OK. However in the cases when there were character kills as a result of player versus player conflict, did this cause any carryover friction? For example, when the new character was created, was he hostile or otherwise opposed (different faction/beliefs) to character that did the killing? Any kind of "you screwed me last time, so now its payback" stuff going on (and it might be very subtle)?

You also indicated how the game could facilitate the goal you are striving for, but I am not sure if those are just window dressings and will infact help to create that sense of drama and story or theme oriented play. I am sure that the game has rules for casting spells, combat, and probably a list of skills or abilities to apply to "social conflicts", but beyond that maybe not enough to get you to where you want. What are experience points awarded for? With the Vice/Virtue system, is a vice always a disadvantage, or could the player realize some benefits by playing out his Vice? Could a player make an agrgument that his Greedy character is better at guessing who could be bribed or not, and thus get a bonus to pick out the right guard to pay off? Does a player get extra experience points for putting himself at a disadvantage (say in a tactical situation) just to remain true to his Virtue? If not, if staying true to your Virtue will screw you over during a combat situation, and the only driving force to succeed (i.e. not die) is to optimize combat tactics. In this case the Virtue rules cannot be supporting good story or drama since the players will avoid using them. If I am trying to play for X, but that approach has a high chance of losing my character, then I will stick with the safer Y option, thank you very much.

I don't want to get caught in detailed analysis of the game rules, but only to suggest that there might not be rules that truly support your desired goals. They are essentially just color. What I would consider a much clearer rules for your goals would be something that said if the player described a dramatic action (and a sample list of what is considered dramatic by the game standards is provided) then he gets a bonus of some type. And if the GM is the final authority on what is dramatic or not, then deciding it was not a dramatic enough move should not screw the character, just not give the bonus (or the rule indicates that what the player described was intent, not actual action - if the GM agrees the action proceed with the proper bonus, if he disagrees the player can declare a new, safer action but with no further chance at a bonus). That would be first guess as to why you always get pulled away from your desired intent.

Of course you can drift the rules, add house rules, or put in other techniques that can minimize the lack of support from the game system. As you said, you are not looking for a whole change, just to kick things up a notch. And that should still be possible.

-Al


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 28, 2008, 12:21:10 PM
I had some concerns about the fact that players chose to kill of their characters. This is usually a bad sign (lack of engagement), but it seems that they were couple of extreme concepts that just didn't work. That's OK. However in the cases when there were character kills as a result of player versus player conflict, did this cause any carryover friction? For example, when the new character was created, was he hostile or otherwise opposed (different faction/beliefs) to character that did the killing? Any kind of "you screwed me last time, so now its payback" stuff going on (and it might be very subtle)?
I would so, so far, no. However, I think there may be a subtle bit of resentment over the last PvP conflict, because the winning character won by exploiting an oversight on the other character's behalf. I did warn the loser about this oversight previous to it being a problem, both OOC as the GM, and in-character as an NPC who'd read over their duel agreement...but he chose to proceed anyway. I think, if there is any animosity there, hopefully it will be slight in regard to this.

You also indicated how the game could facilitate the goal you are striving for, but I am not sure if those are just window dressings and will infact help to create that sense of drama and story or theme oriented play. I am sure that the game has rules for casting spells, combat, and probably a list of skills or abilities to apply to "social conflicts", but beyond that maybe not enough to get you to where you want. What are experience points awarded for? With the Vice/Virtue system, is a vice always a disadvantage, or could the player realize some benefits by playing out his Vice? Could a player make an agrgument that his Greedy character is better at guessing who could be bribed or not, and thus get a bonus to pick out the right guard to pay off? Does a player get extra experience points for putting himself at a disadvantage (say in a tactical situation) just to remain true to his Virtue? If not, if staying true to your Virtue will screw you over during a combat situation, and the only driving force to succeed (i.e. not die) is to optimize combat tactics. In this case the Virtue rules cannot be supporting good story or drama since the players will avoid using them. If I am trying to play for X, but that approach has a high chance of losing my character, then I will stick with the safer Y option, thank you very much.
In my opinion, this is White-Wolf's biggest triumph of their new system over the old one. All the old system's "dramatic" tools WERE window dressing, I think otherwise of the new one.

To answers you questions directly:
Experience is awarded in several categries, each with at least 3 subcategories. Combat is only represented as one of the subcategories under one of the main categories, only. There are subcategories for drama, character portrayal, research and investigation of mysteries and a bunch of other things. Each subcategory alone can only provide very small amounts of XP, so characters earn the best XP by participating in all parts of the story.

For Virtue/Vice, each character has a pool of "Willpower" points that they can spend to add dice to rolls, or remove dice from rolls against them. These points are replenished ONLY through using the character's Vice or Virtue.
Vice can be engaged very often, though each reward is small, while Virtue can only be awarded once per game, but has a HUGE payoff.
You get an award for Virtue or Vice when you act according to that precept OUTSIDE of what would be considered the 'normal' action in that situation. This is usually supposed to involve some risk of lose for your character, as well.


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: ks13 on January 28, 2008, 05:12:41 PM
Quote
Experience is awarded in several categries, each with at least 3 subcategories. Combat is only represented as one of the subcategories under one of the main categories, only. There are subcategories for drama, character portrayal, research and investigation of mysteries and a bunch of other things.

Can you elaborate on the drama subcategory? What does the player have to do to get these, how often are they awarded, etc. Would the action of the player who chose to explore the area and risk an ambush be dramatic or just stupid? If there is a indistinct transition line between moment (a) we "role play" - have in character discussions, roll social skills, and make dramatic statements and (b) "we are in a tactical combat situation, let's not say or do anything that could be used against us", then I would not be at all surprised for players to be guarded at all times just in case they wandered into region (b). Especially where the GM goes all out in terms of a "realistic" or "logical" response to their action and thus a potential character kill. The exception are the players that no longer care about the characters and actively push those limits. And when their character gets smacked down for their ill thought out actions, it reinforces that sense of never being safe or able to relax.

If drama based experience are already available, why not discuss with the group what you consider to be appropriate, and up the experience value? Of course drama alone might not be the primary concern, but just one element of what you are after. Getting back to the very first question of making the players (not the characters, but the PLAYERS) be interested in getting their characters more involved with the community....You may be working against the original setup of the game where orginary humans are not to learn of magic or mage's abilities, on-goings, etc. Are the players simply not satisfying that requirement? I am sure they would suffer all kinds of nasty fallout if they revealed too much. Better safe then sorry. To me it looks like you are asking for opposite things.

Though its always possible to get around that by having specific house rules or exceptions. The method I used for establishing trust between PCs and NPC was to create "supporting cast characters". Each player choses an NPC, any NPC from the town, to be their SCC. It could be the town drunk, or the mayor. Doesn't matter, in the end the value of this supporting character will the be the same. Interacting with these characters should provide useful information, good source of experience points, access to neat items, or maybe a useful lackey to successfully take care of basic stuff. And these SCC's are off limits to the GM from any sort of a screw job. No kiddnapings, no turning informant or betraying the PC, no need to be rescused, no being followed to the secret hang out...none of that. If the SCC is part of some dangerous NPC-only mission or event, they are the ones that come out alive. On the other hand, they are not minions for the players, and they can refuse or become "unavailable" if the PC's try to use them as pawns. If you can have a very direct agreement with the players that these SCCs are an available and protected resource, always there as long as they don't push the bounds of reason on what the players can expect from them (and these bounds also need to be stated very clearly up front), then right away you establish ties to the community. The SCC the specific relationship has to be approved by the player. That is also key. Everyone should make suggestions, but the player has the final say as to what they accept (and how that relation might change during play). The SCC's themselves don't offer the any secret paths to drama or epic conflicts, at least not in the beginning. The player could change that if they wish, but the main goal is to establish trustworthy connection between the PCs and the community.

Not sure if that is making sense, or if you want to have a house rule that is very much outside of the scope of what is presented in the rule books. The group I used this with was learning RPG's from the ground up, so it evolved organically. But for any group of "experienced" players, this has to be introduced in a very explicit way. Not all players have to accept an SCC, and it could be on a trial basis; if they chose against it the SCC goes back to being a background NPC and the players gain a few extra experience points for their troubles. What all this can eventually lead to is a case where the players are willing to make a dramatic statement during what would otherwise be a "hardcore tactics" situation, and know that the GM will be on the same page to allow the dramatic statement to be made without necessarily hanging everything on the dice. I knew this was working when the players would discuss (OOC) their plans and strageties with me as the GM. The whole idea of secret planing, revealing nothing till the last moment, and "trust none cause the GM will use them to screw you" was absent. The game stops feeling as players versus GM, and becomes us-in-the-imaginary-world. This is of course only one of many tools needed, and is so much easier if these tools come prepacked with the game system. Let me know if that is on the right track, or if its off base of what you are after.

Cheers,

-Al


Title: Re: Creating a Community
Post by: Reithan on January 29, 2008, 07:50:53 AM
Our group is using a SLIGHTLY modified XP rubrick from presented in the book, mainly just to clear up some instances of "grey areas"

Each game session each player gets 1 xp just for being there. Then, if they're taken the option to include a "Flaw" in their character, if that flaw hindered them that session they get 1 more XP.

On top of that, they may get 0-2 XP for combat, 0-2 XP for contributing 'in-character' and 0-2 XP for Participating in Planning or Investigation stuff in game.

Then, after each individual in-game plot or story is resolved, they get xp for the story.

Each character that participated in that story gets 1 XP.
Then each may recieve 0-2 XP for the story being a "success", this can mean anything from "We didn't die" to "We made a new friend". Just if something good came out of this plot, you get XP.
0-2 XP if the plot was dangerous, either in combat terms, or terms of political peril.
0-2 XP if the character showed Wisdom or Leadership over the course of that story.

Also, in either category (game or story) they can earn additional "Arcane XP" which can only be put towards their main magic stat. They can get 1 point for contact with the supernatural, 1 for Solving a riddle or mystery, 1 for Resolving a story or plot involving the supernatural and also, any points gained in an astral realm automatically convert to Arcane XP.

I got a little more in-depth with the Mages vs. Humans rules in the sister thread to this one, so I'll just paraphrase here. The game is setup so that Mages are encouraged to interact with humans to varying degrees of closeness, though it CAN put them in sticky situations sometimes.

Also, SCCs are already included in the game rules. You can buy them at character creation or with XP in several different "flavors". You can get "Allies", "Contacts", "Mentor" and "Retainer".

As for adversarial player vs GM situations, I've tried VERY VERY hard not to fall into this, even though several of my players seem to expect it. I generally give my players several warnings and the benefit of the doubt, usually, but at some point it does fall to the dice. If a player is 100% dead-set on doing something that he's been completely notified that is dangerous, well then it does fall to the dice, and I don't see anything wrong with that per-se. I also am striving to give my players a lot of imput on the rules we use, as well as the in-game content. I'm encouraging them to create their own scenes, come up with things THEY want to do in game and I generally oblige any request that hasn't already been pre-empted by something else (like: "I wanna go to see NPC A at Location B" "er, but you blew up location B last week" "Oh...right..."). If it's something that's 'iffy', as in either that character would honestly not have easy/immediate access to that thing/person/place, or some other thing calls that request into question, again, we let it fall to dice. ("I wanna find a gun-smuggler" "Those are not exactly waiting on every street corner, do you have an Ally or Contact that could help?" "No" "Ok, we'll roll Intelligence + Streetwise to see if you can find one (rolls - success) Ok, you find one, frame your scene." "Sweet"