[3:16] the betrayal of planet Girlfriend

Started by Paul Czege, December 18, 2008, 02:07:09 AM

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Callan S.

I don't think Lance is describing that particular 'sensitivity' procedure. As I understand him, with the procedure he describes he goes in with no preconceived notion (running platoon is preconceived)/no agenda. The prep he does is inspired by the game, which is to say, the game triggers something inside his thoughts, feelings and values, as he wrote about before. And the prep he makes is stuff that may trigger something inside the thoughts, feelings and values of the other players (emphasis on the 'may' - see below). So it's system inspires GM, GM inspires player (as opposed to what might be described as traditional RPG's, where it's just GM inspires players).

Also in that procedure, if the players don't react to the sympathetic planets, then just follow the rules procedure - roll to hit, whatever, with just a light beer and pretzels splash of colour, till you get to the end. It's okay if the session goes on and ends that way. It's much nicer if there's an inspired resonance with the players, of course. But there is no "I've spent $150 on books and many, many hours of prep on personally heartfelt material! If this thing doesn't work all that's gone to hell so it HAS to work and they WILL be inspired, goddammit!" stress, which most traditional RPG's seem to involve. Here, not getting through to the players isn't the end of the world - just follow the rules to the end, wrap up and watch a movie or something together. I think that's the procedure Lance describes - or atleast I describe one which is very similar.


To clarify things up:

In my last post I talked about two different things. One is sensitivity, the other is being upfront. I only referred to the sensitivity in the first paragraph, and the second paragraph was about upfront disclosure of the game's preferred themes.

Once again, what I mean by being sensitive to players' signals is exactly what you describe. You create a scenario, pretty much just a sketch of the encounters etc. and toss it to the players. You may have some preconceived ideas or themes, but if the players don't seem to want to go that way, it's fine and you're not going to force it on them. It's sensitivity to signals from the players. If they seem to be having a good time just blasting away aliens, then by all means do that and have a beer afterwards. This, I gather, is more or less what you and Lance were both talking about?

Now, being upfront is a different story altogether. You have a theme (such as Platoon) and you tell the players what the themes and mood of the campaign are going to be. In this mode you can just tell the players that if they're looking for a cheery action movie -style shoot'em up, they should look somewhere else. So this one is pretty much a "now, if you want to do a game like this I can put a lot of time and effort into the prepping, but I sure as hell am not going to do it if you guys want to play a light b&p style game." This is pretty much what our group does. We've been playing together for a long long time, so we can be very open about what we want and don't want to play/run. It means that we don't have to rely so much on the GM sensitivity described above, since such a need rarely arises. The players know what they sign up for, and act accordingly.

Lance D. Allen

That is almost exactly what I was getting at, Callan.

A few niggling details differ.

First, my 3:16 play has involved me telling the players that I can do character creation, scenario creation and play out a full mission in 2-3 hours.

Then I sit down and prove it to them. I roll the planet up right there on the table in front of them, usually scratching the notes on a slip of paper, ostentatiously showing them that the game can be played no-prep.

This has its weaknesses, obviously. The mission hasn't got any depth, nor do the NPCs.. I usually fall back on John Harper's jaded, lazily-insulting LT, crazy pilot and lackadaisical mission brief.

The first of the strengths is that very lack of investment. If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play. If the session rocks on toast (which is pretty typical, even with the no-prep approach) then it rocks. If it's okay but nothing special, I've still managed, at the least, to prove that it could be done. The second strength leads from the first; I'm not invested, I have no agenda other than to help the players kill some bugs. Maybe those bugs will be corrupt troopers. Maybe they'll be sympathetic in some way. Usually, I play them as pretty faceless. Get 'em into the idea of killing bugs as light-hearted fun. Even if I want to explore the deeper themes, it's good to start light.

I can enjoy both types of play. Beer-and-pretzels bug-splatting, or deep exploration of the themes of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity and Personal courage in a fictional, somewhat over the top setting. Both of the groups I've run it for (disclosure: Both were composed entirely of active duty soldiers, either bound for Iraq or recently returned, with the sole exception of my wife, who played in the first group) were enjoying the beer and pretzels, but were open for other stuff. No discussion, no agenda. Just playing it real, and letting it happen.

It really comes down to system inspires GM, system inspires players. It may inspire a different thing in your players than in you. In that case, decide if you can have fun with that thing, and if not.. Well, there's always a movie.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls


Quote from: Wolfen on December 30, 2008, 11:16:48 PM
Then I sit down and prove it to them. I roll the planet up right there on the table in front of them, usually scratching the notes on a slip of paper, ostentatiously showing them that the game can be played no-prep.[...]This has its weaknesses, obviously. The mission hasn't got any depth, nor do the NPCs.[...]The first of the strengths is that very lack of investment. If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play.[...]If it's okay but nothing special, I've still managed, at the least, to prove that it could be done.

Pardon me for asking, but why not play a board game then? What inherent benefit or value is there in showing and proving that the game can be played no-prep? The sentence "If the session sucks, I didn't lose hours of preparation for lousy play" simply makes no sense to me, especially listing it as a particular strength. For the people I game with (and including myself) a "sucky session" is certainly not in any way a presumably valid option when setting out to play. If hours of preparation amount to lousy play, it calls for serious discussion between the whole group.

Imagine a surgeon winging an operation. If the patient dies, then at least the surgeon didn't spend a lot of time poring over the patient's medical files. And if the patient happens to live through the operation, at least it was proven that a surgeon really can wing an operation. I just fail to see whose needs are served, apart from the surgeon.

Games shouldn't be solely about player enjoyment or GM enjoyment, but a shared enjoyed experience with a common investment.

Lance D. Allen

You're over-analyzing here.
Obviously a lousy session isn't a goal. But shit happens. From the original post of this thread, Paul did a fair amount of prep, and the play came out fairly lackluster, at least compared to his expectations. Lousy sessions happen. People have off-nights, sometimes the group just doesn't click with the game. If I'd spent hours, or days, preparing a scenario only to have it end up sucking, that's worse than sitting down with a no-prep game and having it suck. If you've never had this happen, then you've led a charmed gaming life that doesn't reflect on the rest of us.

As for the inherent merits of proving no-prep play is doable? Have you ever had a time where something happened, and your normal game fell through, but you really wanted to do some roleplaying? Or have you ever been hanging out with no particular plans to roleplay, but thought it would be a nice to be able to do some? In a game that requires even an hour of prep to start a game from scratch, this may mean it'll never happen. With 3:16, Someone can suggest we do some gaming, and within 2-3 hours, we can be done with a full session, from scratch.

And honestly, the surgery comparison? That's pretty ridiculous. There are no hobby surgeons. Surgery isn't something done to kill a few hours having some fun.

Anyhow, while our discussions here may have merit, it's becoming apparent that the original poster hasn't got much else to say. I suggest we take our future discussion elsewhere, if you've any interest in continuing on this line.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Callan S.

I think the surgery comparison isn't ridiculous, rather it shows a contrast of priority. I can imagine what manatic means, I think. I'd phrase it that the game session is this important thing were making together and if it flops, then our important thing has flopped! How could saving on prep matter? It either risks a flop, or at best it does nothing to prevent it! What use is that at all if at best it does nothing about what is important!

It's curious being able to walk the line, if I'm at all accurate about the above. I don't share that priority, yet I can feel it and its needs.

My own priority I think is similar or the same as Lance's. The session isn't an important thing. Lance talked about what the people at the table think and feel, and that's the important thing. NO, not what they think and feel about the game! That's what alot of 'session is important!' people will think I mean at this moment. No, the important thing is outside the game entirely - what do they think and feel about life in general, but spoken through the games metaphor? That's the important thing - the game itself is a relatively disposable thing in regards to that. A bit like booster rockets that fall away once they have done their job in launching the main capsule. The booster rocket is nice when it's firing, but it is not an important thing. And if it doesn't fire at all, well it would have been nice if it did, but oh well and atleast we didn't prep for dozens of hours beforehand!

I think alot of roleplayers will still think I'm talking about 'the session is important' because that IS roleplay, for them. Because without that, to them it isn't roleplay and it comes down to "Why don't you play a board game?". Which is an interesting question if you look carefully. Because it makes you assume when they ask it, they aren't playing a board game. Without having provided any evidence to prove that and instead only triggering the sympathetic assumption/trust that they aren't playing a boardgame. That's the very edge of 'the complete package', I'd say.

Also, and Lance might not agree he was showing this, I think his demonstration shows he as GM doesn't own the game by having done lots of prep beforehand. He's in the same position as other players - he rocks up and starts using the system. Which shows no one really owns the game - its virgin territory (or perhaps 'no mans land' might be more apt in 3:16's case). That's probably how it was for most of us on our very first few sessions of roleplaying. That's another benefit of his demonstration, I think, anyway.

Gah, thought I'd be shorter than this. Lance is right about the thread and it should split. But I couldn't think of an actual play account that seemed to fit, without thinking "Am I just bringing that up as an excuse to start a thread, rather than because it fits the issue?".


(I think this thread should be moved somewhere else, too. It's not really about the original thread anymore, and the posts are getting long. Judging by your post counts you know the ins and outs of this site, so you probably know where to move it. It's an interesting discussion in itself and one that I feel might be fun to continue.)

Callan, you got the surgery comparison right. And from what your and Lance's posts are saying, priorisation and differing gaming cultures are what we are talking about.

Our group is quite relaxed when it comes to roleplaying, but it's a curious mix. The whole social situation is very closely intertwined with the game itself. While the social event isn't just about the session but also very much about socializing with friends, it still means that the session should be as good as possible. You could easily compare it to having a lot of friends over for a few beers, some food and a film. The point isn't the movie, the food or the beer, but instead seeing your friends. Still, if the movie sucks, the food is awful and the beer warm and watery it will detract a lot from the evening's fun factor.

So from this point of view I talked about board games (good point on the question's wording btw), since that is what we would do if we really wanted to do some gaming and our regular game fell through. If we don't have anything prepped,  we'll just settle for playing something that's been prepped already, such as a board game. It fulfils the social need for gaming without risking the improvised rpg session sucking and bringing the night to a "bleh" conclusion.

Now seen against this I think you can understand why I consider the quick game that Lance described as something incomprehensible. I guess our group works with the idea "if you're going to do something, do it right." We have had a lot of non-prep and impromptu games years ago and  have gradually come to the conclusion that since we don't have limitless time to spend on rpg/gaming sessions, we'd rather spend the time we have on quality. Our group somewhat values the idea of game owning, but in a positive way. Which is basically saying, that if the GM makes the effort to inspire the players, the players respond in kind. The idea of owning games is one I'd very much like to discuss, since it's one of our group's main points of discussion currently.

As to what Lance said in his post...believe me, having GM'd for 11-12 years I've had quite a few of my games fall flat on their well-prepared faces, so so much for my charmed life. While as a kid that was downright awful, these days it has a lot more meaning. So I have to disagree: I think that if a well-prepared game with a solid and 'reliable' gaming group ends up sucking, it provides a very good start for discussing the reasons why such a surprising thing happened, and as such might end up contributing a lot to the whole group - as failures often do if they're broken down and analyzed.

If a non-prep game ends up sucking, IMO it will just disappoint everyone and possibly make them question why it was played in the first place, instead of board gaming or catching a film. And since it was no-prep, there always was a fairly good chance of it sucking, so it's really not such a surprise as to merit a lot of discussion.

- Mikko (since we're on a first name basis, it felt awkward staying behind a nick)

Lance D. Allen

I think we've got a lot to say on this topic of prep-less play. If you guys are willing, I'll start another AP thread this evening (Baghdad local time; I work the night shift) where I will attempt to unpack where I'm trying to go, and we can work out what's important here. I'll dab into my recent 3:16 play, as well as my attempts at designing prepless or low-prep games, and how those games played out.

Remember, the idea of the AP forum isn't to avoid theory. It's to ground theory in actual play.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls