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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 71 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: [contenders] match duration  (Read 7694 times)
Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« on: February 25, 2008, 08:47:37 PM »

Hi!

A few days ago I played a session of Contenders (my first one) with some out-or-town friends. I did choose that game because I wanted to try it and my usual group has zero interest in boxing, but the choice backfired when the players (all long-time roleplayers with years of experience in traditional gaming), seeing the matches and the endgame (with a winner with the most reputation) went all gamist on me and started to play it as a boardgame, with no role-play at all. I tried in the first scenes to turn the tide, even arguing the issue with them, but they were too sure that "a game with victory conditions is gamist, for sure!" so I gave up and played the game exactly like them (or better than them, as I was the "winner" at the end... proving, at least to me, that it wasn't gamist at all, because even winning was totally unfun)

After the first matches, the players began to "play the system" with boxing match between PC of the maximum length in rounds (to get more total cash), and this meant having to wait a long time for the end of long, boring matches where the contenders dropped all their traits to zero in the first few rounds (for fatigue or getting hit) and the played the later 8-10 rounds with the results completely random. From my reading of the manual, there was no rule to avoid this. Did I miss something? Because it was really boring, but still the players refused to throw the match until they were sore that they had no more chances to get that last point of  reputation...
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Yokiboy
Member

Posts: 364


WWW
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2008, 01:43:51 PM »

After the first matches, the players began to "play the system" with boxing match between PC of the maximum length in rounds (to get more total cash), and this meant having to wait a long time for the end of long, boring matches where the contenders dropped all their traits to zero in the first few rounds (for fatigue or getting hit) and the played the later 8-10 rounds with the results completely random. From my reading of the manual, there was no rule to avoid this. Did I miss something? Because it was really boring, but still the players refused to throw the match until they were sore that they had no more chances to get that last point of  reputation...

I'm sorry to hear that you had such a poor experience with Contenders. Playing it to win like that just defeats the whole point of the game IMO.

When we played Contenders we started the first couple of matches with just a few rounds, certainly no more than the Contenders had Rep and Conditioning. Until your Rep builds up you're basically fighting on the undercard, so the Promoter should book you for short quick matches.

Did you hit any of your fellow players with Threat Scenes, or perhaps Brawls? That seems to have a tendency to up the tension and get the focus back on story.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 02:55:35 PM »

When we played Contenders we started the first couple of matches with just a few rounds, certainly no more than the Contenders had Rep and Conditioning. Until your Rep builds up you're basically fighting on the undercard, so the Promoter should book you for short quick matches.

The promotion scenes were done without any role-playing, so there was no promoter, only the two players agreeing (out-of-character) on 15 rounds to get the biggest purse.

From my reading of the book, the factors that limit the match's length are:
1) role-playing of the promoter, and of the characters.
2) the desire, from the players, of a fast game with a good rhythm
3) the danger, in a long match, of the Bringing Down the Pain: when both are at zero in every trait, the loser can do a BDTP with almost no opposition and win the match (he would have lost and got the pain anyway, in this manner he get the money and the double reputation too). It's more safe, for the contenders, to end the match before going to zero traits.

The fist two were absent, and the only contender with a big pain never used BDTP, so there was nothing to deter going to too long matches.

Quote
Did you hit any of your fellow players with Threat Scenes, or perhaps Brawls? That seems to have a tendency to up the tension and get the focus back on story.

No, I always stayed at 1 pain for the entire game, and seeing the consensus of the other players I simply gave up on "story"

I am becoming rather disheartened about the possibility of playing narrativism in this gaming culture with improvised gaming group made of old-time gamers...

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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Yokiboy
Member

Posts: 364


WWW
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2008, 03:12:44 PM »

Moreno, it looks like you already identified what went wrong in your Promotion Scenes. There should definitely not be any 15 round fights between Contenders that are just starting out. Limit it to Rep and/or Conditioning if you want to hardcode it somehow.

No, I always stayed at 1 pain for the entire game, and seeing the consensus of the other players I simply gave up on "story"

I am becoming rather disheartened about the possibility of playing narrativism in this gaming culture with improvised gaming group made of old-time gamers...

Just hit them with another game, or why not first show them a movie that explains what Contenders is about. Show them Raging Bull or Fat City prior to playing. See if that gets them juiced up.

If you're introducing people to narrativism, you might want to start with something simpler than a GM-less game. How about taking SOAP or The Pool for a spin? What kind of games do you own?

TTFN,

Yoki
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2008, 04:33:05 PM »

If you're introducing people to narrativism, you might want to start with something simpler than a GM-less game. How about taking SOAP or The Pool for a spin? What kind of games do you own?

No, I wasn't trying to introduce people to narrativism (I thought that there was no need, these were people who had read my articles and posts in the italian forums about nar), I wanted to try Contenders for myself. The exact same characteristics that made it difficult to play with them made it unsuitable to play with my usual gaming group (where I can play more "traditional" nar games like PTA, DitV, TSOY, etc.). I have another gaming group for more "experimental" games but we can't play often and they didn't like the premise of Contenders.

For some time I tried to introduce people to narrativism at gaming convention, but I found it really not-fun. Playing nar with unknown people is already more difficult, with people who never played nar more so, add the sensation of being under examination because you have to "prove" that the game is fun (and there always the risk of some people that signed to the game only to prove that it isn't)... it can work as a demonstration, but seldom as a really good time. So now I am more interested in building a network of  people who I can play with, and bettering my play (and playing a lot of different games is my way to do the latter)

I suppose that I should mark that specific group of players as "only for not-immersive gamist games"..


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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Filip Luszczyk
Member

Posts: 771

roll-player


« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2008, 11:27:11 AM »

We've been discussing the length of matches after our yesterday's session.

Now, the way we play Contenders, there's not much narration in comparison to other games (though I'm sure the game would quickly become boring if we completely ditched narration, if only due to the lack of color). Also, we have little role-playing and certainly no character immersion. There is the story, but it's of a secondary importance. There's a lot of strategizing, and threat scenes were used mainly strategically so far. I don't think it defeats the point of anything - it's totally fun for us that way, so I suppose your dissatisfaction is a matter of personal preferences.

Two things that limit the length of matches are Conditioning (unless your stats are worse, you don't really want to level the playing field) and the fact that you might not want the opponent to gain too much Cash (you can earn enough for your own needs through bets anyway). Our matches tend to last for 3-6 rounds, though we're still experimenting with the rules.

However, there's this thing about our Promotion scenes: the length of matches, rather than an agreement between players, is normally a matter of the spotlight player setting the length and the other player nodding. Possibly, our mode of play would benefit if it was always the challenged player who sets the length, or maybe even always the uninvolved player. The latter option would prevent matches for dragging too long, I suppose, so I'll probably propose it to the group the next time we play.

Regardless of the mode, I think non-fighting players could get more involved in fight scenes by role-playing the audience, preferably Connections. However, this probably doesn't solve your problem, since there is apparently no desire to role-play among the other players.

Also, I had an idea for a rule change that could help in engaging non-fighting players in the matches. What if the Cash bet before the match translated to a pool of points that non-fighting players could later spend to give the fighters bonus cards? This would, naturally, require the player to narrate/role-play whatever is boosting the contender. Obviously, the rule would shift the balance, and it has some potential to be used tactically - but perhaps something like this could help in a situation such as yours and ecnourage some role-playing?
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Joe J Prince
Member

Posts: 113

Putting the fun into dysfunction!


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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2008, 09:08:15 AM »

Hi there

Thanks for posting Moreno, it's a shame your Contenders game didn't go so well.

I picked up on a couple of things in the original post that may have caused problems.

There are no victory conditions -  there are narrative constraints imposed on the Contenders at the end of play.
Also it is Hope vs Pain not Rep that determines these constraints.

Personally  I agree with you, the game works better when you immerse and go for the role-play. I don't really understand why people would want to play an RPG and then not role-play?!

However as Filip mentions - it can be fun to just game it. Filip you may want to check out some of the Contenders house rules on the Collective Endeavour site - they are intended to game it up. Not sure about the wagers becoming bonuses but hey give it a whirl and let me know!

I've toyed with the idea of mechanical impositions on match length but I like the in-character negotiations, ultimately it's the social contract at work. So if there are difficulties then there are likely problems with the group dynamic. As Moreno rightly mentions.

Cheers
Joe
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