OgreCave

Audio Report: we still do that

June 26th, 2007: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Audio Report: we still do that

So here we go. Sorry for the delay. You can still subscribe and access old shows over here. We have one more in the can, going out later in the week.

11 Comments »

11 comments

  1. timopod says:

    party unity really depends on the party and the game master. I prefer to have game unity and not have to worry about the other players, I think the game master trying to kill me is enough. What it sounded like is a bad case of High School role playing. If theres a story reason then it’s ok i supose. But I try to avoid player on player action (i guess hot player on player action is the only thing worst).

    Anyway, I to much love space hulk. Wasn’t doom the board game sort of like space hulk…not that I ever saw doom (fantasy flight games).

  2. In the game session I mentioned in the show, I don’t think it was an issue of maintaining party unity, or even of avoiding using the players against each other (I’ve done it before, and will do it again). In this case, it was really an issue of the suspicious character’s player feeling like everyone expected him to calm down his suspicious nature and allow the new character into the group. No one actually demanded this of him, nor did anyone say “Hey, it’s Colin’s character, give him a break,” or the like – but for some reason, the suspicious character was played as less suspicious for a while, allowing the new, evil character into the group more easily.

    So, when I later made the joke that we knew his “PC glow” would help him get accepted, instead of saying “Aw, man, you got me,” the player who had, of his own accord, toned down his character’s suspicious nature, got angry about it. He seemed okay with everything the very next session, but at the time, the feeling of being tricked really bothered him. No one else in the game had such strong feelings, with all the other players raving about how well the session had gone despite the potentially bad outcome for their characters.

    As I mentioned in the show, the question I had was this: Is it the GM’s responsibility to make sure each player sticks to the way his character should be played, or the player’s responsibility? It seems to me that each player gets to choose his character’s reactions. At what point does it become the GM running the characters for his players, who are just observing and not truly making the decisions?

  3. Mike Sugarbaker says:

    The only reason the suspicious character’s player (that’s wordy; let’s call him El Suspicioso) let down his PC’s guard is because of the assumption, inculcated by years of D&D play, that you just have to let new guys in to preserve party unity. If your character wouldn’t do that, well, your character is going to break games most of the time. So, this sounds a little bit like you’re saying, “hey, I’m not talking about the disease here, I’m talking about the symptom!” To which I can only say, well… okay?

    But really, you aren’t doing that; you’re trying to ask a different question entirely. I do have a response to your real question, but first I want to give you a chance to check in on this party-unity thing, just so we can be talking about one thing at a time.

  4. timopod says:

    couldn’t el suspicioso be a woman, in which case it should be el suspiciosa (then again, i got two d’s in spanish).

    anyway, The group I played with back the “long ago’s” had this sort of problem. One character totaly ruined the game (and ended the whole campaign) by exploderating the store house of vis we had (ars magica). SO I’m defintly against players changing their nature, even if it’s jsut to let a new guy in, suck it up and deal with it. I don’t want to be judgmental here, but I’m starting to blame senior suspicioso for the whole shenanigans, why. we’ll becasue of random acts of kindness, mod swings and because it’s just easier. WE can’t blame the evil character, after all he DID play in character. (oh yeha and any elf..I’ll blame then to)

  5. Lee Valentine says:

    Lots of things in one response…

    First, GW was talked about a lot. Any word on anything happening to their U.S. stores I heard a COMPLETELY UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOR that they were closing their Cambridge store, and Cambridge is like Gamer Geek Central.

    Second, Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper is a great game when played by 4+ players. Great. We played it at Harvard one night all night and everyone wanted to keep playing. You have to like classic card games (it’s got Rummy in the title after all), but it’s fun. I seem to remember it having lots of strategy IF you were good at counting cards. If you can’t remember a ton of cards all at once you’ll effectively be playing it randomly and it will seem like a game of pure chance instead of strategy. It’ll be very boring, I’d imagine.

    I also own the Mystery Rummy: Murders in the Rue Morgue set too, which is not quite as good, but is designed for two players, so having each game lets you pick the right game for the occasion.

    Regarding your RPG situation, Allan, gamemasters have a social contract with the players. Your players have a social contract with you and with each other. Your question about “enforcing people playing in character” is missing the point. Most people (but not all people) require that the group have something of a shared vision for an RPG to really work well and continue for a long time.

    In one shots, players can all stay in character even if that’s contrary to the goals of other players, because people will tend to put up with friction for a few hours to see something novel happen. In long term games, people generally have to make sacrifices on how they play their characters so that everyone else can have some fun.

    Consider this. If I have written a character who is a complete ass all the time to everyone, then I may be being “true to my character” to play that way, but it’s gonna tick everyone off if I’m an ass to the other PCs. Players have tolerance to abusing the NPCs, but don’t want to show up for 4 hours of abuse every Saturday. So, I’d be forced to not play that character OR to tone down my character toward the PCs so that other players can have fun.

    If your paranoid character played his character to the hilt he’d probably raise such hell everytime a new PC showed up that it’d make your other players unhappy, and a new PC wouldn’t be allowed to join the adventuring party for months (or if he did, the paranoid character would leave). So the player of the paranoid character probably decised that he’d voluntarily playing out of character for the benefit of others. Naturally he’s incredibly ticked when he plays out of character to help the player (not the character) of the evil character, and that player just abuses that trust. What should have happened if everyone played in character is that the evil character shows up one day and gets badgered and prodded endlessly or shunned outright by the paranoid character and the one refuses to work with the other until both have proved each other worthy of mutual trust. If you are into that, so be it. For some groups it may be great. For other groups that’ll make for a long crappy game. When you joke about this, you are showing that you are effectively “an accessory to the crime” in the eyes of the player who feels like he was wronged.

    Sometimes you can be “true to the story” and tell a great one that everyone will remember and which few people if any have any fun playing. Concessions have to be made by the GM and by all the players for many groups. The more the players and the GM have a shared vision, the fewer concessions have to be made to be sure everyone’s happy.

    Consider that in real life, if I was an adventurer wandering around having life or death battles that there is NO WAY I’d just let someone I met in a bar 3 hours ago join up. And playing out the multiple months of slowly building up trust before I’ll let the new player’s character go on a mission with me is sometimes quite tedious. So sometimes we just suspend our disbelief a lot and conveniently the players become fast friends or frienemies for the good of the GAME not the good of the STORY.

    Pretty much EVERY D&D game I ever ran that had one or more players who were worried more about their personal vision of their character than the game, made for some great acting, and for the ruination of one or more other players’ perceived level of fun.

    Unless the evil character is truly made to pay for his deed then you could end up with a permanent change in the way the paranoid player player. If I were that player and I was playing a paranoid character, if I survived the encounter with the evil character I might inadvertently or subconsciously ruin your entire game Allan. I’d view that the social contract was not “everyone should have fun first and tell a good story second,” but that instead it was “everyone should tell a good story and play an interesting character even if nobody else has fun”. Next time anyone wanted to play a new character I’d refuse to play with him without months and months of in game proof of the trustworthiness of the new character. It’d spoil everyone else’s fun to protect my fun — my fun being not being knifed in the back because I played out of character so that everyone else had a lot more fun even if I had a little less fun.

    This is not to say that you can’t let an evil character in a game. In some games you can’t. In others you can. But a player should never have to play out of character to benefit everyone else and then be punished for putting the good fun of the player group ahead of his personal vision and personal fun. And if he does make that sacrifice, it should never be held over his head as if he was the one that made a mistake.

    These are my views as a long time GM who has made these types of mistakes occasionally myself, and who have seen players make this mistake time and time again — caring more about their vision than the game.

    Whether this was a mistake on your part depends on what the perceived social contract is at your gaming table, and different people around the table may feel that question ought to be answered differently. Probably something to talk about with all the players, out-of-character, before your next gaming session.

  6. Torquemada says:

    Hey!

    Curious. I also got completely out of comics after Spiderman’s Clone Saga. Maximum Clonage Omega and BAM! No more comics for me.

    And, if anyone needs a second copy of Nexus Ops for an epic game, I remember seeing them at Amazon for cheap, like $10.

    Bye.

    pd: BTW, it’s “El Sospechoso(a)”. 🙂

  7. Hi Mike,

    The only reason the suspicious character’s player (that’s wordy; let’s call him El Suspicioso) let down his PC’s guard is because of the assumption, inculcated by years of D&D play, that you just have to let new guys in to preserve party unity.

    I guess what I should mention is that El Suspicioso totally broke with his usual pattern of absolutely grilling each and every new travelling companion for many weeks, and *still* not trusting some of the first companions his character met. More communication between the player and myself would’ve helped, naturally, as I might have had a better idea how the player saw his suspicious nature hindering the group’s enjoyment each session, and could’ve adjusted my approach. But I counted on him acting the way he always did, and then he didn’t, so it threw me, and made it easier on the evil guy than intended.

  8. Hi Lee,

    Any word on anything happening to their U.S. stores I heard a COMPLETELY UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOR that they were closing their Cambridge store, and Cambridge is like Gamer Geek Central.

    I haven’t heard anything on that yet. Anyone else?

    Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper is a great game when played by 4+ players. Great. We played it at Harvard one night all night and everyone wanted to keep playing. You have to like classic card games (it’s got Rummy in the title after all), but it’s fun.

    Love the classic card games, but just didn’t get a handle on Jack the Ripper. We only did two player games though, so maybe I’ll give it another try with more players.

    In long term games, people generally have to make sacrifices on how they play their characters so that everyone else can have some fun.

    Sure. The player’s sudden decision to make this sacrifice/change was surely made to let everyone else enjoy the game more (and maybe he just got tired of being so suspicious, too), but it came without warning. Again, if I’d kept on top of the communication with the player, maybe we could’ve avoided upsetting him.

    Naturally he’s incredibly ticked when he plays out of character to help the player (not the character) of the evil character, and that player just abuses that trust. What should have happened if everyone played in character is that the evil character shows up one day and gets badgered and prodded endlessly or shunned outright by the paranoid character and the one refuses to work with the other until both have proved each other worthy of mutual trust.

    Agreed, on all counts. I fully expected this sort of mistrustful standoff in the party for a while, and was surprised when it didn’t happen (I think another player commented to that effect during one of the games). The problem was that I only realized he was playing out of character to be nice *after* he was pissed off about us taking advantage of his sacrifice.

    So sometimes we just suspend our disbelief a lot and conveniently the players become fast friends or frienemies for the good of the GAME not the good of the STORY.

    Believe me, Lee, my players are all aware of the unreal nature of the campaign group dynamic. We try to be realistic about it, to logically explain why characters travel together, etc, but the humor of the situation doesn’t escape us.

    Sometimes you can be “true to the story” and tell a great one that everyone will remember and which few people if any have any fun playing. Concessions have to be made by the GM and by all the players for many groups. The more the players and the GM have a shared vision, the fewer concessions have to be made to be sure everyone’s happy.

    Four out of five players greatly enjoyed the session, but the one who didn’t caught me off guard, which was why I brought it up. Discussing it here has pointed out the warning signs I should’ve paid heed to, and I’ll keep these comments in mind in upcoming games. Because, though GMs always have strong feelings about having evil betrayal amidst the ranks of the player characters, the point to it was to provide more fuel for both a character’s backstory and the campaign as a whole – a known villain, who has escaped. That much was achieved, and most of the players really enjoyed the odd session style *and* the story. However, I would’ve liked to achieve those things without one of my players feeling like we took advantage of him.

    This is not to say that you can’t let an evil character in a game. In some games you can’t. In others you can. But a player should never have to play out of character to benefit everyone else and then be punished for putting the good fun of the player group ahead of his personal vision and personal fun. And if he does make that sacrifice, it should never be held over his head as if he was the one that made a mistake.

    Yes, you’re right, and I don’t mean to say otherwise. It was just strange to be accused of asking him to tone down his character’s suspicions, when none of us made any such request (at least, not consciously). Ultimately, I should’ve been talking more often with each player – which I do periodically, since being a GM is as much counselor as storyteller, at times – and should’ve kept strong communications open at that potentially sensitive time.

    Live and learn. Thanks for the suggestions, guys. The campaign’s still going strong, and continues to build toward this story arc’s climax.

  9. Lee Valentine says:

    Allan wrote:
    Love the classic card games, but just didn’t get a handle on Jack the Ripper. We only did two player games though, so maybe I’ll give it another try with more players.

    It’s nominally a multi-player game (4 or so) and as a two player game I think it’s probably lame. The Murders in the Rue Morgue game is much better there. I feel that Jack the Ripper is nominally about as good as a two-player game as a political game — a lot of the mystery about who is gonna screw each other over is drained away.

    Re: the D&D game, I think this can all be resolved by first approaching the so-called “injured” person and discussing matters with him in private, and then discussing out-of-character the general tone and theme of the game with everyone before you next play. You came up with a really novel way to run a session with a silence spell involved. Undoubtedly everyone else had fun. But since the exact style of the session seemed to (from your description) allow the evil guy to take advantage of the paranoid guy. Honestly, I can tell you that the only way the paranoid guy will probably feel really accepting of the circumstances at hand is if the evil guy gets his karmic comeuppence. Then he may laugh along with everyone else. If that isn’t forthcoming, however, then a private dialogue followed by a group dialogue will probably go a long way. Since you seem like an extremely level-headed and reasonable person with a good sense of humor you should be able to lead such a discussion with relative ease.

    By the way, did the paranoid character get killed or just injured?

    Either way, it sounds like a complex and intriguing game. Kudos to you for running such a rich, imaginative game. Your handling of the silence spell was inspired and probably added to the experience for your group.

  10. misuba says:

    I feel like people have pretty much already said what I was gonna say (*snif* I’m so proud of you!) but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway:

    Allan, your question was, “Is it the GM’s responsibility to make sure each player sticks to the way his character should be played, or the player’s responsibility?”

    My take: neither. No one has responsibility to the character; the character doesn’t exist. Players – and the GM is a player in this context – have responsibility to each other. You see that borne out in the other answers here; this was a social glitch that needs social resolution, as befits any other kind of socializing.

  11. Lee wrote: Honestly, I can tell you that the only way the paranoid guy will probably feel really accepting of the circumstances at hand is if the evil guy gets his karmic comeuppence.

    Oh, I know. I mean, the addition of a bad guy to get revenge on later was the whole point.

    By the way, did the paranoid character get killed or just injured?

    The paranoid character didn’t get harmed in any way by the betrayal, actually (he was busy fighting ogres). The player was just supremely upset at the deception, not that his character got hurt, stolen from, or anything else.

    Either way, it sounds like a complex and intriguing game. Kudos to you for running such a rich, imaginative game. Your handling of the silence spell was inspired and probably added to the experience for your group.

    Thanks!

    misuba wrote: My take: neither. No one has responsibility to the character; the character doesn’t exist. Players – and the GM is a player in this context – have responsibility to each other.

    Oh sure, leave it to you to state the obvious. 🙂

    btw, I did discuss things with the player a couple of times in the days after, when he had calmed down and when I’d had time to reflect a bit. He understood I was trying to add to the quest and to everyone’s enjoyment; I began to understand why he was upset at the perceived out-of-game manipulation. I think we’re fine now, though the whole incident reminded me to keep talking to my players – even when I think everything’s cool.

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