"I just literally do not know how to play."

2»

Comments

  • We shouldn't beat up game designers, writers and publishers because the texts don't communicate how to play the game. This is not a "problem" unique to RPGs. I defy you to find a book on baseball that could teach people how to assemble teams and play the game.

    Yet baseball gets played and taught to new players. It's a social thing.
  • Uh, no, I think that might be outstretching it too far. If RPG's rules, procedures, techniques, mechanics and setting were so simple that you could learn how to play it by heart after ten minutes of verbal explanation (which you could also repeat to other people to teach the game), then we could call it a social thing that doesn't need books to be thaugt. Only then you could compare it to baseball.

    But only the Techniques part of the game is social, and until we start explaining those on the rulebooks it will remain as something obscure that can only be thaught in person to newcomers, and the hobby will then keep being spread by mouth from people who played with people who learned the techniques from another veteran player.

    A process that despite our best efforts is still so slow that the hobby fanbase doesn't seem to be increasing at all.
  • edited August 2013
    By way of clarification, the conversation I had with my friend was not really about attending a convention. She got the rulebook, read through it it, and was mystified. It was only then that I suggested a local con as a place she could play with people.
    Yes, I know.

    Really, I'm not saying much here: just that gender plays a role in these conversations and it is best not to forget that. I am not saying gender is the whole thing. I don't want it to be the whole discussion. I'm just saying it's in the mix.

    Could we just accept that point and move on?
  • We shouldn't beat up game designers, writers and publishers because the texts don't communicate how to play the game. This is not a "problem" unique to RPGs.
    This is not really an argument. If the trouble exist in other mediums as well, that doesn't mean that the problem will disappear. Game designers are to focused on writing a game which is more instructions on how the game works. It's my belief that we need to start to rethink how to write roleplaying games. They can be shorter (below 20 pages), more to the point (more obvious in why to use the structures) and actually instruct people how to communicate within the group to make it a better session.
    I defy you to find a book on baseball that could teach people how to assemble teams and play the game.
    I don't know anything about baseball, but I'm a soccer coach and there are tons of books that talks about how you should hold your body while making a pass, how to set up a team, how to train on bypassing a defending player, and things like that. (The only thing I missed was team building - guess sports [and roleplaying games] have a lot to learn from theater.)
  • edited August 2013
    Uh, no, I think that might be outstretching it too far. If RPG's rules, procedures, techniques, mechanics and setting were so simple that you could learn how to play it by heart after ten minutes of verbal explanation (which you could also repeat to other people to teach the game), then we could call it a social thing that doesn't need books to be thaugt.
    Well, you can. I'm playing InSpectres with non-gamers and it takes them ten minutes to figure out the game. I'm going through the setting in short terms (McDonalds, Big Brother, Ghostbusters - some time in the future), what they are supposed to do (playing employers at a Ghostbusters firm), and how we should play the game (by doing an exercise in how to communicate to storytell). I'm making them create the soft mechanics of the character (name, previous profession), and sadly also letting them divide dice in attributes and in their company. Then we start playing, taking off where the exercise ended. The first thing I do is to guide them through the first three phases that InSpectres got, on the way explaining how to roll and read the dice. In the last phase, the field work, I introduce stress roll and cool. Up to the last phase, the time it takes to go through this, excluding the time it takes to make characters, is around 10-15 minutes. An InSpectres session for me takes around 45 minutes but we usually play it twice, so I can use the second session to introduce the confession chair and how to create traits for each other, how to regain lost dice in attributes, and the economy of the company.

    My own This Is Pulp is even faster, and instead of having a rulebook of 70+ pages, like for InSpectres, the rulebook is 2,5 pages long. I even had gamers taking over the GM seat after just one seventy minute session. That's how easy it is to learn the game. In how to communicate this through written words, however, is a challenge.
  • Exactly Rickard, I didn't think it couldn't be done, but actually, that it should be done more. On top of that, discovering the setting in play and learning new mechanics every once in a while adds a lot to the fun, so you could actually have a very complex set of rules, procedures and mechanics but not release them to the players until later in the campaign, providing you've got a good excuse for that.

    Some years ago I GMed a game about teenage sorcerers discovering their powers and the worlds of magic beyond the realm of men (it was more based on Books of Magic comics than in Harry Potter) which used a single d10 for everything. PCs started with just 30 hp and the rest was based on how the players were at age 15, so they didn't had skills nor equipment nor any knowledge of magic at all.
    We could start playing right away, though it certainly demanded a lot of GMprep (well, at least making NPCs and monsters stats was easy) but then again, if I ever get to make this into a book, it would be almost entirely setting.

    As the campaign progressed the characters learned skills, new mechanics were revealed and equipment started to appear. I still think it could be a good game for unexperienced players (it's starts with a bit of a ryuutama lighthearted atmosphere, facing PC against non-lethal stuff, but it goes into epic escape-from-hell scenarios with a nice bump once players get the basics.) But it would certainly need a couple of nice tools for world creation for the GM and a comic explaining Techniques for the players and GM.

    Perhaps you could try that for your games, turning that 10 minutes AP into an 8 page comic (perhaps even less pages) and use that as promoting material.

  • Exactly Rickard, I didn't think it couldn't be done, but actually, that it should be done more. On top of that, discovering the setting in play and learning new mechanics every once in a while adds a lot to the fun, so you could actually have a very complex set of rules, procedures and mechanics but not release them to the players until later in the campaign, providing you've got a good excuse for that.
    I had an idea of creating an OSR game that consisted of five adventures where the player characters are starting at level 0. Each adventure introduces a new element of the game. The first adventure presents the attributes and the last the alignment system, and each one tells the game master how to create adventures around that particular game element. When all the adventures are played, the characters would level up, and the group would be given a quick start of how to create level 1 characters.

    I never came to make this, because the rule system changed into a truly tactical game instead. :)
    We could start playing right away, though it certainly demanded a lot of GMprep (well, at least making NPCs and monsters stats was easy) but then again, if I ever get to make this into a book, it would be almost entirely setting.
    I actually think settings are written in the wrong way. Today, settings are like a combined history and geography book. You need to read it and when creating a scenario, you need to first go back and look what kind of things that occur in the setting and then think about how to use it. I hate that. If it's going to be a game where a game master must do a preparation, the game master should come up with a story and then go to the book for references.

    USUAL WAY
    The game master reads through a book and finds a gang. The gang seems interesting to use, but the GM must come up with how to use it.

    MY WAY
    The game master is given a structure for how to create a scenario, that tells the reader what the game is about. If the game master wants to have a gang in the scenario, because that's what the setting is about, then that person can look up a list of gangs in the book.

    ---

    The method used for creating an adventure should be first in the book together with structures that tells the reader how to play the game. These should be so intertwined that you can't tell what is what, exactly like techniques and game mechanics should be combined into structures ("procedures"). In other words, prep and play should be explained at the same time. Otherwise, you wont understand why you're doing the prep, and you can't understand how to play if you don't know the prep.
  • I had an idea of creating an OSR game that consisted of five adventures where the player characters are starting at level 0. Each adventure introduces a new element of the game. The first adventure presents the attributes and the last the alignment system, and each one tells the game master how to create adventures around that particular game element. When all the adventures are played, the characters would level up, and the group would be given a quick start of how to create level 1 characters.
    I had an idea of creating a game which gets progressively freer as it goes on. Say it's about a treasure hunt.

    First, everyone picks a character. The intro is read aloud and the first scene is set (by the text). The instructions say "Act out the scene where you meet at the tavern and agree to go on a treasure hunt. Act your character and when you all agree to go, the scene is over."

    Maybe the second scene is preparing for the voyage. The instructions say "Make up a thing your character does to prepare for the voyage and describe it. Saying goodbye to your lover, loading the sip, that sort of thing. Take turns."

    Third scene might be facing a disaster, and now someone gets to make up the disaster and everyone has to say what they do, and in the end we roll a die to see how it goes, with set alternatives (if you roll a 1-3, your ship is detroyed and you are shipwrecked). Later conflicts will have the players make up the alternatives themselves (a higher roll is better for the characters). By the end of the game, people have been introduced to some light rules and have also been gradually introduced to making stuff up. The final scene is finding the treasure, at which point anything goes. Likely, you'll fight over the treasure (conflicts between characters having been introduced earlier) and freely set scenes of trying to backstab each other and getting away with the treasure.

    Something like that. If you want to do a gradual approach, don't just introduce the rules gradually, introduce the concept of roleplaying by starting with simple instructions that go "Ok, stop here, now do this. When you've done this, read on."
  • I'm a woman. I just want to second what Graham said, which is that gender can and often does play a role in interactions like this.

    I felt the same way when I started gaming. Why? I suspect it has something to do with being cultured to attend to the details of social interactions and not wanting to feel like a social roadblock.

    I wanted to watch rather than play because I was nervous about coming into a social situation I had no context for. I think that's a very human emotion and one that men probably feel too. But I think my gendered conditioning primes me for it.

    I think what new gamers -- women or men -- need to be told in that situation is, "you are going to be wonderful because new gamers often do it better than old hats, and we will be supportive and answer any questions you have. Or if you just want to watch for a little while before jumping in, that's cool too."

    In general, I think it's wise to include a little concrete example of how play might go in some of the game text. That helps too.
  • edited August 2013
    "you are going to be wonderful because new gamers often do it better than old hats, and we will be supportive and answer any questions you have. Or if you just want to watch for a little while before jumping in, that's cool too."
    I'm in total agreement with Lizzie here, and you can say the above with confidence because the "new gamers are awesome" thing is absolutely true.


  • As the campaign progressed the characters learned skills, new mechanics were revealed and equipment started to appear. I still think it could be a good game for unexperienced players (it's starts with a bit of a ryuutama lighthearted atmosphere, facing PC against non-lethal stuff, but it goes into epic escape-from-hell scenarios with a nice bump once players get the basics.) But it would certainly need a couple of nice tools for world creation for the GM and a comic explaining Techniques for the players and GM.
    This bolded part suddenly has me thinking about RISK: Legacy. To say any more would be a spoiler, but...that's totally a thing. And it has me thinking about how you might adapt an RPG to a similar style, to make it easier to learn.
  • Complicating the rules progressively looks like way to go for complex systems. Also, having a procedure to create adventures considering player input is great, since it helps a lot to get players in the same page quickly, they get more related to the setting because of the creative investment they are making and whatever challenge you can make out of it. However, to really make that work you still need to take time, consider all that player input and write a few surprising/amazing/provocative scenes out of it, to have the players reactions and later actions built the story.

    I actually think settings are written in the wrong way. Today, settings are like a combined history and geography book. You need to read it and when creating a scenario, you need to first go back and look what kind of things that occur in the setting and then think about how to use it. I hate that. If it's going to be a game where a game master must do a preparation, the game master should come up with a story and then go to the book for references.
    You're right, a whole history book for inspiring a GM doesn't work for me either. We GMs need to plan sessions, story arcs or campaigns, not the story of a whole world. If you're a designer and you've got this strange and incredible world of yours, just tell us the general concept, communicate to GMs and players the feeling you've got of the diferente setting locations and characters, give us a list of the things and situations we can find on your world and a process to build the starting point and main turning points for a session, an story arch and a campaign.

    The method used for creating an adventure should be first in the book together with structures that tells the reader how to play the game. These should be so intertwined that you can't tell what is what, exactly like techniques and game mechanics should be combined into structures ("procedures"). In other words, prep and play should be explained at the same time. Otherwise, you wont understand why you're doing the prep, and you can't understand how to play if you don't know the prep.
    Agreed, you can always introduce the game through a module, ready for players to use right out of the box, but then it'd be perfect for readers to find the procedure to create more adventures. It would be for the best to present all this stuff in the appropiate way for players and GMs to process it in the order it's needed, instead of expecting GMs and players to read the whole book or worse, having the GM study it until they learn it by heart, to later explain everything to the players besides of finding their own way for building adventures. Specially when that task also has to deal with a complicate mechanics and thousands of modifiers / special rules for everything.

    I think I'd still start the book with a short comic showing an AP that specifies the techniques, and as a parallel, show what's going on in the fiction to convey what the fiction proposed by the designer should look/feel like.

    Right after that there would be the procedure to create characters with the most basic options, interwined with the start of the adventure, handing a pre-made module for the GM. Then would come the procedure for prepping more GM material, followed by the full library of locations, NPCs ideas, monsters, items, mc guffins, weapons, equipment, etc. Another section after that would feature the whole procedure for creating characters of all levels of complexity needed for the game along with ideas of how to relate them to the adventure and other PCs/NPCs.

    BW had the right idea, but it's still too complex for my taste :P
  • To the original post.

    I would imagine that your person was experiencing a natural level of shyness. Many people need to be invited to join something. Kind of like vampires needing to be invited to enter a house.

    My guess anyway.
  • To the original post.

    I would imagine that your person was experiencing a natural level of shyness. Many people need to be invited to join something. Kind of like vampires needing to be invited to enter a house.

    My guess anyway.
    That is the best similie ever.
  • Teaching is hard. Everyone thinks they can do it well, though. Truth is, most people can't.
  • To do it, do it, and have fun. Don't worry about being a bad teacher, most people around you will be good learners, and they'll pay enough attention if they see you having fun. On worst case, they'll get curious enough to ask around what you meant.
  • So I guess gender is irrelevant after all, huh. So interesting to see it brought up and summarily dismissed as predicted. I am usually a little skeptical of claims that this happens but it just happened, so that's good. I'll be less skeptical!
  • edited August 2013
    Administrator voice and all:

    This is a solid discussion, and not heated enough to go Slow Down or the like, but this:

    >>>>>
    I've seen other-gendered players in this situation too. I'm aware it's an issue, but that has been discussed before to no end, so can we please not go there in this thread?
    >>>>>

    I've only loosely followed this discussion, but @WarriorMonk, there are always multiple angles into any discussion, any resolution. Too little information (and by that I mean, "we weren't there") to speculate that gender was the only issue in play of course, but certainly there is more than one answer, and gender concerns (and subsequent advice related to those concerns) are absolutely warranted.

    Knowing RP techniques are a good mitigating factor, but they of course will not solve all issues. I can think of five uncomfortable situations I've had in the last ten years in gaming that technique could not fix (one of them gender, others power-related, others related to illness), and could think of ten more if given a minute.

    I know where you're coming from, but unless the original poster Brian confirms there were no gender issues in play (how is another discussion, to be sure, but at least he was there) and says he doesn't want to talk about that in this thread, gender is on the table.

    At the very least, keep your mind open to techniques that can be used to create a positive environment across gender lines.

    Long story short: Gender's in play. Stop dismissing it as an angle, or shutting down the discussion.

    Thank you.

    -Andy
  • So I guess gender is irrelevant after all, huh. So interesting to see it brought up and summarily dismissed as predicted. I am usually a little skeptical of claims that this happens but it just happened, so that's good. I'll be less skeptical!
    I'm curious. Who are you talking to?
  • Hi all,

    I think set up this discord in my original post by unwittingly combining two different issues.

    What was interesting to me was my friend's comment that, despite reading the gigantic book, she had "no idea how to play".

    A woman was excited about D&D (and found out about it from girls), and and she knew a dude who had a little more context and background. To me, there's not a lot of gender subtext there, aside from the bigger gender issues around gaming.

    In the course of our conversation, I mentioned a local gaming event (which, as it happens, is pretty woman-friendly, as far as I'm aware). She expressed some hesitation about that, which certainly has a gender component. (But maybe not so straightforwardly as some in the thread feel. This is someone with no knowledge of what gaming events are like, so maybe now we're just talking about how women are socialized generally, which is a lot to take on.)





  • As further development, I'm going to run a game for her and some friends so she can see what this D&D business is all about. Probably all non-gamers, and all women. A first for me! I am stoked.
  • edited August 2013
    @Brian_Miner: That's awesome! To be a beginner and experience roleplaying for the first time, I envy them. :)
  • edited August 2013
    Uh, oh, Brian, I don't get if you're dismissing the gender part or not, I'm taking like it's still on the table though you as me don't see that as the main issue in discussion. Yet everybody here wants to go there, so I'll address the gender issue with some experience of my own.

    I was kinda in the same situation here: I told a friend of mine about roleplaying games, she became interested and wanted to know how to play them. She took a glance at some of my books, loved the art and laugh at the anecdotes of our sessions, but up until that part she still didn't know how to play it and hadn't meet the rest of my group. So she explicitly (though half joking) said that probably my friends would hate her for stalling the game, that it felt a bit complicated and a couple other excuses alike.

    I've gotta add all the things she didn't said but were clearly readable in her attitude: she's quite a people person, she's a therapist so she knows a lot about dealing with all kind of people. Of course, that doesn't make her completely extrovert, but my point is that perhaps it wasn't completely about shyness that she felt intimidated.

    There was also the fact that she found our anecdotes fun and unexpected, like something out of a novel, and thought you had to be incredibly creative and very good at impro to play the game. Not a surprise there, I'm a veteran player and I think that myself about games like Fiasco and other indie storygames.

    My guess was that is was the combination of all these all among other things, which generates a complicated emotional situation. Try to put in her shoes: you've got to get along with people you don't know, all not only from the opposite sex but who may misinterpretate your curiosity as personal interest. Then the whole activity is about a complex game for which you will have to make a ton of questions, which could also get misinterpretated as personal interest, and mainly will probably halt the game may times and make the experience frustrating for everybody. You don't want these strangers hate you nor fall for you or think bad of you, so you're trying to be polite only to find later that you're sharing a table with barbarians. But you are curious about this game, want to play it eventually and you're sure all you need is some reassurance.

    So, it's like a blind date with a game, get it now?

    Ok, here's what I did:

    -She told me that she wanted to watch. I know from first hand that watching a session without playing can be boring and off-putting sometimes, and on top of that you might still end up not understanding what you see (the fisrt time I saw a group playing D&D I didn't, though some things started to become clearer). So I told her that. But then I didn't force her to play one game, I gave her options.

    -I had two or three simpler games that work both as a ice-breaker and help people relax a bit while learning some of the techniques for roleplaying, I offered that and also a list of boardgames we have. So it wasn't like "our way or the highway" but more like "you've got nothing to lose, all choices are fun"

    -I reassured her about my group; while they get into barbarian mode from time to time, they know how to behave in front of a lady, and I'm often ready to make them behave in case they dare go back into barbarian mode. I made this clear in a humorous way, which seemed to work (she visibly relaxed).

    -Finally she came to our session and though we started with Aye, Dark Overlord! (which is hilarious but a bit rough and stressful since you might end up bullied) she relaxed a lot and then we went into roleplaying.

    -I used my Adapt game, which is a sort of light-hearted version of Paranoia XP with lots of randomness. It worked like a charm and she realized the game didn't had to be serious, it's a game after all. She saw us use the basic techniques and soon she was figuring out new ones by her own and finding us ready to roll with her input and build upon it.

    -Later we improvised a dungeon with some D&D cardboard tiles and my Resourcefull deck (which now I'm more proud of, it helped me to improvise a nice story and characters on the run, and then it helped me to populate the dungeon with traps, puzzles and monsters as the players went further into it) and we saw her gaining confidence on each scene, to finally turn for a moment into the avatar of a dark godess. She even roleplayed the part nicely; the party managed to rescue her and then they all escaped just in time as the whole dungeon collapsed.

    Now, you can see that yes, there was a gender issue there, but again, I'd go the same way if the new player was a male with the difference that I'd had to adjust my sensibility to not hurt his pride.

    Ok that was my take on the gender issue. And still, I don't feel is related to the fact that learning a game from the book is quite difficult. Why? because while the D&D art has a high male-centric content, it was still appealing to my friend; and besides that, there's nothing in the book that makes it harder to learn the game for any specific gender (I'm not sure if somebody meant that when they referred to the gender issue; I hope not but at certain points I had that impression, hence my insistence not to go there since I find that really insulting).

    So I beg you pardon but IMHO the problem about a reader unable to understand the game from the book, is in the book. It's in the way it explains the rules and leaves other important things for veteran players to explain to the new ones.

    For the rest of the problems, yes, I agree that when teaching and bringing new players to the hobby, veteran players still make too many mistakes out of passion for the game. I feel embarrased that there's still so much bigotry among fellow players, designers and publishers. I feel terrible about the gender issues and It's certainly something we have to address now, something that can't be denied or minimized. If somebody thought I meant any of this you're totally wrong. I blame my poor writing skills in english which as some of you know, isn't my native language. Feel free to correct my own methods for dealing with the problem; it worked in this case but I'm sure it won't for others, so the more I learn about treating other people the more grateful I'll be.

  • edited August 2013
    Uh, oh, Brian, I don't get if you're dismissing the gender part or not, I'm taking like it's still on the table though you as me don't see that as the main issue in discussion.
    This thread was way more involved than I guessed when I posted, so I definitely don't feel like it's my place to shut down any discussion. If anyone feels this is valuable and not internet conflict-y for the sake of conflict, by all means, continue.
  • I suggest ending this thread and splitting off into new ones. The topics being raised have moved far beyond the original anecdote.
  • For serious.
  • Aww, adorable - it's like watching the child say the emperor is naked!

    She hasn't clicked that most gamers only think they know how to play - they assume they know. But they don't really know - their assumption they know how to play is the very stuff of them inventing/making up methods of play.

    Then you have a spectrum between that and those who realise they don't know how to play and will make things up because they see that most traditional RPG's (like 4E) are actually incomplete games (procedurally).
  • Somehow, gamers manage to entertain themselves every day. Amazing considering that most of them don't actually know how to play. /eyeroll/
  • Well, how often have you given a small child a toy, only to find him later playing with the box in which the toy came? Blame all you want the toy for not being easier or more obvious to use, the person will find their own fun anyway. If as a designer you're stubborn enough to faithful believe that your way of having fun is better, then for all means, use all your might to explain us why. Either way, somebody's gonna end up playing with the box in which it came.
  • I'm sure someone could entertain themselves gluing chess pieces together into interesting scultures. The notion that if there was entertainment, then someone must have known how to play - that's the greatest trick the devil ever played upon the world. Wait, I mean Gygax!

    (little bit of expressive jest there for entertainments sake - not to be taken internally or utterly literally. But I know it will)
  • Well do enlighten us poor peons. :-P
  • I think you're reading me as saying when people doesn't know X, that means I do know X, Carp. No, I don't either. That's the genius of the trick - to take advantage of peoples inclination to think that only if a right way is shown, is their way disproven. How do you hijack such a notion? Never provide a full procedural break down of the right way to play to begin with! Over and over again people will (if they don't just say 'I have no idea how to play' as with the adorable OP example) invent entertainment at the table, and because of their notion they must see a right way or else what they are doing is not disproven in regards to how to do it, they keep finding what they do as the very way to play D&D (or any other number of RPGs). No matter how incompatable their play is with another group (see the constructive denial thread). Also the hard look at D&D article gropes at this as well "How did you know it worked? What did you do it for? All of it, from Social Contract right down to Stance, had to be created in the faith that it worked "out there" somewhere, and somehow, some way, it was supposed to work here."

    Mix in a little bit of disassociating 'right' away from what someone said to actually do to instead a depersonalised notion of 'right' and the final disproval methods are servered. Serve at room temperature.

    Of course the whole thing can't be simple - otherwise there'd be no trick.

  • I guess this says something about what we expect out of our hobby, and what the rest of us expect out of media in general.

    When I first started I had no idea what gaming was, but was intrigued by the book in the fantasy section of the book store. We just took characters and made them start killing goblins, because that is what I could figure out, and it all evolved from there.
  • I still think that at least Techniques could be shown better to the readers. Not that it could solve 100% percent of the problems but certainly it could speed up the learning curve of any RPG.
  • I thought folks in this thread might be interested in a site I've just spotted, called Learn Tabletop RPGs. I haven't had a chance to investigate it in any depth as yet, but at first blush it looks very helpful.
  • Shauna: ok! I just literally do not know how to play. That was not in my giant book.

    Game makers, take note!
    So much truth here. I went through the same thing back in the late '80s: I knew that roleplaying games sounded totally awesome and I wanted to get in on that action. So I started buying RPGs. I went through the Batman RPG, MERP, and Bunnies & Burrows. I bought them, I read them, I occasionally created a character... I had absolutely no idea how to play them. It's actually kind of amazing how bad the majority of RPGs and STGs are at making themselves accessible to new players. (Like a lot of other people, it was finally the Mentzer D&D Basic Set that finally let me figure things out.)


Sign In or Register to comment.