My rules for playing Story Games

edited March 2006 in Play Advice
Prologue: I recently took a break from RPGs, except for playing short sessions with my daughter. One of the reasons for this break, the reason I gave everyone, was that I had come to feel that playing and planning to play RPGs had become a way to put off writing fiction. So, I cut out the RPGs and began writing more. But another, mostly unstated reason for the hiatus was that, much like Andy recently posted, I've gotten somewhat sick of playing RPGs. I needed to step back, play some card and board games, and really think about why I wanted to play RPGs, or if I wanted to play them at all.

And so: I was thinking the other day about when I was my daughter's age (9), before I'd discovered RPGs. My friends and I played a lot of "Let's Pretend" games. We ran around in the school playground and our yards playing superheroes. We played with our Star Wars action figures, Legos, Weebles and Micronauts. I thought about why those games were fun--because, boy, did I love that kind of play--and what traditional RPGs (including some indie ones) were missing for me. I came up with what I think of as "rules" for playing Role-Playing/Story/Let's Pretend Games, guidelines and principles that I think would make these games more enjoyable for me. Why am I posting these here? For feedback, really. Are these clear? Are they reasonable? Is there anything I need to explain or elaborate on?

Story Game Rules:
  • The invitation to play a Story Game should be no more complicated than, "You wanna come over and play?" Just like with any card game or board game.
  • Accepting the invitation is a commitment only for the one play session, not a commitment for a series of sessions. It's a game, not a marriage.
  • Any Story Game should be able to be played in one sitting, although if the players all want it to continue the game--with the same setting and/or characters and/or story--beyond one sitting, that's an option.
  • Everyone is a player.
  • All players are equal.
  • No one player has more authority than any other in interpreting and adjudicating the rules.
  • No one player has more authority than any other in creating and building on the imagined setting. All players have equal ownership of and responsibility for the imagined setting.
  • All players have equal ownership of and responsibility for all imagined characters--however, final authority over any character rests with the player who created the character.
  • No one player has more authority than any other in creating the story. All players have equal responsibility for creating story through play.
  • Story comes from characters in conflict. All players have a responsibility to create interesting, proactive characters with dramatic goals and desires.
  • The creation and building of characters, setting and story should all be done in play. Little to no prep time should be required to play.
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Comments

  • edited March 2006
    Hey there, other other Joshua!

    Couple quibbles -- while I agree that all players start with equal responsibility and authority, is it possible and/or acceptable for some of the players to abdicate or transfer their responsibility and/or authority to others? I'm thinking, of course, of a traditional GM role, or something a little more pervy like a rotating GM structure where the PCs visit different worlds, each with a different GM, and the like.

    By 'play' in your last point, do you mean roleplay or do you mean collaborative play? If somebody does some 'prep' beforehand and finds it fun, isn't that also play? What are you really trying to get at, here?

    Lastly, this one:
    The invitation to play a Story Game should be no more complicated than, "You wanna come over and play?" Just like with any card game or board game.
    If I'm inviting you to play, can I specify the game? "Wanna come over and play Timestream?"

    On the whole, though, I think you've got a good foundation for knowing what you like and want in games.
  • edited March 2006
    Personally, I really don't much care for the idea that anyone acting as "GM" has any more authority or responsibility than any other player. I'm not really all that big on the traditional role of the GM. I think back to when my friends and I played "Let's Pretend," and y'know, we never had any "GM", nor did it ever occur to us that any such person was needed. Now, sometimes one person might take on more of a "leader" role in play, but that shifted from player to player pretty seamlessly in any session of play.

    Now, let's say you're playing...oh, The Shadow of Yesterday. The Story Guide does different things than the other players, right? S/he creates Story Guide Characters and comes up with Key Scenes. But when you get right down to it, how different is that from the other players creating characters? How different is that from the players picking Keys for their characters which get them XP? And beyond that, I don't see how the Story Guide has any more authority or responsibility for the setting and rules than any other player. Basically, I agree that a "GM" player will frequently be a different kind of player, with responsibility for and authority over different things than the other players, but I don't buy for a second that the "GM" player has more responsibility or authority in the game. (There may be some traditional RPGs in which the game doesn't work unless authority and responsibility is ceded to the "GM" for all of play. Frankly, I don't want to play those games.)
    By 'play' in your last point, do you mean roleplay or do you mean collaborative play?
    I mean "play"--as in, "You wanna come over and play Poker?" or "You wanna come over and play Ticket to Ride?" So, I guess I mean "collaborative play," if by that you mean "playing a game with at least one other person."
    If somebody does some 'prep' beforehand and finds it fun, isn't that also play?
    My daughter likes to set up the board before we all play a board game. Is that "play"? In a broad sense, I suppose it is.
    What are you really trying to get at, here?
    I find most prep for playing RPGs kind of a drag. And I think it's absolutely bizarre that it's frequently taken as a given that you have to do prep (creating characters, creating setting info, drawing maps, whatever) in order to even play an RPG. I think prep for a Story Game should take about as much time as it takes to set up the board of a board game.

    On the other hand, I've always liked drawing maps. When I was a kid, and less self-conscious about my drawing abilities, I liked drawing lots of pictures of characters I had created. I don't see that as being "prep" necessarily. Because it's not required for play, it's just done as an adjunct to the collaborative play. (I'm sure there's got to be a better way of saying that, but I can't think of it right now.)
    If I'm inviting you to play, can I specify the game? "Wanna come over and play Timestream?"
    I can't think of any reason why not. Just like when we'll invite people over to play a specific card or board game. Is that not clear in my "rules"? Does that need to be rewritten?

    Thanks for the feedback, other other other Joshua.
  • edited March 2006
    I'm very much in a similar state of mind these days, Joshua N.

    How long do you find it to be okay for a session? I usually go with 3-4 hours as being ideal.

    The use of the word "equal" could be confusing. It seems you want to avoid the dominating DM role, more than having games where all the players do exactly the same thing.
    Is it okay in your book if some parts of the imagined contents are under different players' control?
    Even if one player has authority over the gaming world, another over the adversity and the third the story's "hero"? (Apocalypse Girl)

    What about rules and gameworld complexity? Does that fall under the "little to no prep time"?
  • edited March 2006
    I think 3-4 hours tends to be what I've usually played. But I'm good with shorter and longer periods of play.

    The use of the word "equal" does seem to be throwing people. With you and JBR prodding me...yeah, I am exactly trying to get away from any assumptions that the "GM"-type player has more authority and responsibility over certain parts of the game by default. It seems to me that if all of the players wanted to have certain responsibilities given to certain players for one period of play or over extended periods of play, that seems very reasonable to me. As long as it's negotiated and agreed upon by all of the players and not assumed that "the GM automatically has the final word on the rules" or somesuch. I think the idea of something like "Josh has authority over the setting, Betty has final say on rules interpretations, Julie is in charge of all supporting and antagonist characters, and Steve is in charge of scene framing and plot pacing" is pretty keen. But that kind of authority is negotiated openly, not assumed as a given.

    As for rules complexity...I'm good with it if it falls within the play period. Crunch doesn't bother me. The board games Shadows Over Camelot and Pirate's Cove both have a fair amount of crunch, but no one has to prep anything (besides setting up the board) before hand.

    Thanks for the feedback, Christophe.
  • As for rules complexity...I'm good with it if it falls within the play period. Crunch doesn't bother me. The board games Shadows Over Camelot and Pirate's Cove both have a fair amount of crunch, but no one has to prep anything (besides setting up the board) before hand.
    Your comparison here made me raise an eyebrow. Perhaps it's because I'm a more hardcore boardgamer than most people on here (semi-regular poster to boardgamegeek, regularly play on Brettspielwelt and various play-by-web boardgame sites, along with regular face-to-face play), but the idea of associating Pirate's Cove, or even Shadows Over Comelot with an RPG level of crunch seems a bit off.

    I would say that TSoY is probably as crunchy as a light Columbia block wargame like Crusader Rex or Hammer of the Scots. While I haven't read it, I get the impression that a crunchier game like Burning Wheel is as meaty as a full-blown hobby wargame like Sword of Rome or Breakout:Normandy.
  • The use of the word "equal" does seem to be throwing people.

    Perhaps "differentiated but equal"? Or even "separate but equal"? ;)
  • Linnaeus,

    I'm more than happy to admit that what I consider "pretty crunchy" is not what other people consider "pretty crunchy." I don't think that changes the meaning of any of my "rules," though.

    El Otro Joshua,

    Yes, I'll change the text to read "separate but equal" right away. *cough cough*
  • Hmm. I'd probably say that they have equal -responsibility- for the results of play (which you say) and equivalent power.

    Your division of equality further into characters, setting, and stories does help reinforce the idea that you're trying for true equality, rather than egalatarian play where all players should be equally powerful and responsible, but may take on different roles without giving up their essential worth, power, or responsibility.
  • Other Joshua N., right on.

    I don't think these kinds of rules are even that hard to write. You need a CR system, you need a situation generator, and you probably need a division of responsibilities.

    I've never really understood what "crunchiness" meant in terms of rules; in my group at home, "crunchiness" was the amount of story stuff in a game, but I think a lot of people mean "lots of rules for disparate phenomena" which seems to me not so much fun for generating fiction. I like my rules to apply directly to my intentions, not the details of the world. Those details belong to me, not the rules.

    I dig Dogs' CR system because it's totally useful. I wish chargen was faster; I want to get down to the good stuff.

    Shock: takes a while to get started before the story starts because you're setting the stage, and that stuff matters. Under the Bed takes about 40 seconds to get playing because you make the stuff on the fly. Under the Bed takes a few hours to play; Shock: takes several sessions (3 or more, probably maxing at 15 before the players want to do something else). This was a very deliberate design decision: UtB takes a lot out of you, and it could be hard for the long haul. Shock: is designed to give you lots of space to think about what's happening and what it means.

    So, not a marriage, no. But I don't mind setting out to go on some dates.
  • Good topic. I did just this kind of thing when I was a kid--a lot of it too. Soon after I started doing less of it, I started role-playing. Definitely a need being fulfilled one way or another there. As I think back on those experiences, two things strike me.

    First, the invitation thing is right on the money. Only when my friends and I had gotten together would we discuss what exactly we were doing. And we certainly did have regular games that we would return to over and over, though usually not on consecutive, uh, sessions. Interestingly, these different games were strongly tied to one player's house: each game would only be played at one location, and never others.

    Second, now that I think of it, there really was an antecedant to the "GM." In some of those games (though a minority), one or more players would be protagonists; each playing one character and trying to be "in-character" much of the time. Another player would switch roles, playing all the bad-guys and NPCs. He would usually also take a much more active role in defining the setting (describing what the physical area actually represented). In other words, he basically created challenges for the protagonists. These roles usually rotated after a while.

    Somehow, this makes me resent the typical, fiat-filled GM setup in RPGs a little less...though it's obviously a kind of perversion of the basically benign GMing we once did.
  • This reminds me of DRASTIC quite a lot....
  • So, not a marriage, no. But I don't mind setting out to go on some dates.
    I love that. Well said.

    I have more to say, but I'm at work and it's pretty busy, so it'll have to wait until later.
  • The FFRP that I do online tends to follow this form.
  • Could we get some more Joshuas in this forum? Just one or two more.

    We need nicknames or something.
  • Can I be "El Fuego"?
  • Joshua ¡Quien Es El Fuego! Bishop Roby it is!
  • edited March 2006
    Call me J-Bone.

    (Seriously, what is with all the Joshuas here? I don't think I've ever been in one place, real or virtual, with some many Joshuas.)

    mneme (aka Yet Another Joshua): yes, I'm all about true equality. Or rather, I'm trying to get away from the notion that a "GM"-type player is required, or even highly desireable, for RPGs. It's certainly an option, but the idea that there should or must be a GM is, as far as I'm concerned (and I haven't heard an argument yet that persuaded me otherwise), pure bunk. I'd rather start with the idea that there is no GM, and then divvy up responsibilities and ownership as the group sees fit, depending on the people involved and the game being played. Even then, I want to get as far away as I can from the idea that "the GM is the one who proposes the game being played, the GM decides on the basic set-up, the GM decides how many sessions the game will last, the GM does all or most of the prep" and so on.

    Joshua A.C. Ninja: Yep, I'm right there with you. Although the one time I ran DitV, I thought the character generation went pretty quickly. And I love that it ends with your first conflict. That's a great way of bringing character generation into the game, rather than making it homework you do before the real play begins.

    Jasper: when I think back to how we played "Let's Pretend," there wasn't anything like a GM. If we played superheroes, one player might take the roll of all of the badguys, but we were more likely to all be superheroes and just narrate the existence of badguys. Or we'd do the time honored "superheroes meet and fight each other due to a misunderstanding." Questions about rules were decided upon by arguing ("Uh-huh!" "Nun-uh!") and negotiating. Thinking back to that, and thinking about playing card games and board games in which there's no GM, I've really been wondering what exactly a GM is good for.

    Oh, and seriously, thanks for everyone who gave any input at all in this thread. I really appreciate it.
  • I'd say that the average Story Gamer has none to two kids, a dog and is a cooking, computer programming, library working, martial arts training, game designing, blogging, Tom Waits listening, web developing, the whole world travelling person with scandinavian heritage named ... Joshua!
  • There are certain responsibilities that are required for a successful story game:

    • Create fit opposition.
    • Play protagonists.
    • Play background characters.
    • Make up color.
    • Show approval.
    • Arbitrate real-world disputes.
    • Arbitrate the outcome of fictional events.

    Several of these constitute a conflict of interest if embodied in one individual. For instance, as Paul Czege pointed out, it's lousy to play your own opposition. That's pretty obvious, at least at this end of history.

    But to combine Show of Approval with Arbitration of the Outcome of Fictional Events and Create Fit Opposition is crazy. Those responsibilities have to be divided into different individuals.

    There are a couple of obvious solutions: have several "GMs" who each have their own responsibilities, or the responsibilities are distributed among other players in such a way that no one is responsible only for these things.

    In my games, I've taken the latter approach. For a future game, I might take the former, if someone doesn't beat me to it and do it better than I can.
  • Newman: YES! Wow. Exactly.

    I'm planning on blogging about my Story Game rules on my blog at some point. Is it okay if I also use that list of yours?
  • I have a little difficulty with the "only one session" rule, because I like multiple session play. "It's a game, not a marriage" is an excellent point though, so - for me, what's actually important about this point is that stories END. I like 'em to last more than one session, but not for-frickin'-ever.

    GcL
  • I think a design constraint that needs more work is something that supports episodes well.

    A group of, say, ten people agree to play the game. Each episode of three or four sessions will involve a subset of those players. People can drift in and out of the game as time and interest permit.
  • Mm. I like the structure of 'game night', and basically I have to make up some extraneous "something to look forward to" if I'm not pumped about what's gonna happen next in the game of the month.

  • I like game night, and I might like multiple-session play if there weren't so many different games I wanted to play. How can I play a fifth session of Dogs when there are five other games I haven't even touched? ; )

    That said, however, I'm all about games that create and resolve the situation in one sitting and leave the possibility of continuing open. I like to sit down and play an episode of Buffy, which may or may not be a part of a whole season. If we sit down and want to do Buffy again, we can, but nothing says we have to, and nothing says we have to do that consecutively.
  • Gordon, Shreyas: if you guys don't like the "only one session" rule...that's why these are my personal rules and not Josh's Declaration Of Story Game Rules For All. Although I never said "you can't have a game that lasts more than one sitting." What I said was "any game should be able to be played in one sitting, but if everyone playing wants it to continue beyond one sitting, that's an option, too."

    I'm a huge fan of serials: old movie serials, comics, soap operas, shows like Babylon 5, Doctor Who and Lost. I can easily get invested in characters and situations and want to see those continue into a long--maybe even never-ending--story.

    But I think it's bizarre to assume that getting together to play a certain game means getting together week after week for a continuing game. I can't recall ever getting an invitation "Want to come over and play poker for the next 6 weeks"? or "Want to come over and play Ticket to Ride for the next few months?" Again, this goes back to when I was a kid: sometimes our "Let's Pretend" games went beyond one play session. Sometimes we even had continuing stories with the same characters. But it was never assumed that any game had to last longer than one session of getting together to play. Hell, even when I first started playing RPGs, it was never assumed that any game would last beyond one session. We'd throw together a few characters, someone would grab a pre-made dungeon or improvise a town with a situation, and we'd play until we got tired of playing, and we'd just as often leave that adventure as a one-session deal as we would continue the adventure beyond one session.

    Add to that the fact that most of the people I know are grown-ups, with careers and kids and demanding in-laws. They simply can't commit to week after week without having to cancel a session or two or three because Real Life intrudes. I think it's silly to consider that abnormal. I think it's far more normal to get together when people can--the same as you would for a dinner party or movie night or an orgy--without expecting that a commitment to one Get Together is a commitment to all Get Togethers.

    Or, to be much less long-winded about it: what BishopRoby said about Buffy.
  • Yaar. I agree with you in many ways!

  • On further thought, the question of "equality" led me to come up with another ground rule:

    If responsibilities are going to be divided up, so that some players have different responsibilities than other players, they should be divided up so that all players have an equal level of responsibility. No one player should have to work harder than any other player.
  • edited March 2006
    But I think it's bizarre to assume that getting together to play a certain game means getting together week after week for a continuing game.
    Fair enough, but I recall being in plays where rehearsals were multiple hours, every night of the week, for at least six weeks. That's the case with a lot of performance-related activities, like singing in a choir. If you sign up, you're expected to attend regularly.
  • Fair enough, but I recall being in plays where rehearsals were multiple hours, every night of the week, for at least six weeks. That's the case with a lot of performance-related activities, like singing in a choir. If you sign up, you're expected to attend regularly.
    That's an interesting point, Matt.

    But, y'know, it's funny: I don't equate RPGs with being in a play or any other performance-related activity. I certainly don't play Story Games to perform.

    Plus, you practice and rehearse to build up to a performance. I don't know of anyone who gets together with a group to practice a play just to play-act, without the practice being a means to an end. "Hey, you wanna come over and practice Hamlet for the next few weeks? No, we're not going to perform for anyone but ourselves." I don't play Story Games as a practice for something--I play them just to play them at the moment. Ron Edwards is fond of his "RPG group as band" metaphor, but I don't think it extends beyond metaphor. I don't think a bunch of people getting together to play an RPG is really much like a group of actors or a choir.
  • That being said, I'm not saying if other people want to do that, it's WrongBadFun. But I still think it's weird to assume the playing of a game to be a week after week thing. (Of course, there are a lot of things people do that I think are weird.)
  • edited March 2006
    Joshua,

    What about an amature sports team? They get together weekly to play a game, the same game and with the same people (though against different people, I suppose). And they often get together outside of that to practice.

    Bridge groups sometimes do similar. A few other activities I could think to toss out too.

    But I think that you're probably right that more people in more hobbies DO NOT do it than do, and that RPGs are a minority thing in the amount of extened time and focus commitment they require from a hobby. (In the assumed mode of play that's become the default for lots of folks, at least.)
  • Huh, lost my reply. It's late, so to sum up:

    I guess I only spoke up cause with all the other JoshRules I'm thinking "Of course I agree with that! Those could be my rules, too." Not that there's anything wrong with the One Session rule for Josh, it just would have to be a bit different for me.

    Excellent point about adults and Real Life - calling a missed session or three "abnormal" IS weird. I just prefer to solve that problem in a way that still allows multi-session play, and that does NOT seem weird to me. Brand's right, IMO - multi-session may be the minority, but it ain't exclusive to RPGs at all.

    GcL
  • Josh Neff, yes, there ARE people who get together to do play readings. They're probably a smaller minority than RPGers are, but they exist. There was a clatch of them at my high school; they would pick a different play every week, and sit down and read it dramatically. I felt a lot of brotherhood with them, but the Drama Weenies were WAY too cool to be associated with outcasts like us.
  • Guys,

    Yes. You're right. There are people who engage in hobbies in which showing up on a regular basis, time after time, is expected.

    That doesn't change the fact that I don't see those hobbies as being similar to playing Story Games, except maybe a Bridge group. I associate Story Games with the "Let's Pretend" games of my childhood--that's what they're most like in form and function, and it's what attracted me to RPGs in the first place. That play was not based on being a part of a regular group where the same people showed up at the same time on the same day, week after week. In fact, I'm tempted to say that one of the reasons why playing RPGs tends to be seen as a fringe or specialized activity--like being a musician or an actor--is because of the expectation that you can't just show up once or every once in a while, you have to commit to showing up at the same time every week. It becomes less like something you do for fun with friends and more like play rehearsal or band practice. I know more people who engage in "let's get together when we all can and enjoy each other's company, maybe playing a card game or board game" activities than I do people who engage in activities that ask you to be there week after week.

    So, yes, I agree, there are activities in which the same group will meet time after time. But I still think it's weird that in the world of RPGs, that's seen as the norm and is expected, rather than being a specialized case. In fact, I think it's utterly odd that even posting that I think a game should be able to be played in one sitting, only continued if the players want it to be, is met with protestations. Me? I love playing Story Games, but I don't love doing it so much that I see it in the same way as if I were in an amateur drama group or a band. (In fact, I love performing, too, especially improv, but I'm not looking to commit to doing that regularly either.)
  • Okay, let me revise: I don't think it's weird for a group engaging in a particular hobby or activity to want to meet on a regular basis. What I think is weird is for the people in the group--outside of an amateur sports team, a music group or a performance group--to expect that each and every person in the group will show up each and every time the group gets together. In my experience, it's only been the people I play RPGs with who had that expectation. Are there groups that get together on a regular basis to play Poker or Bridge and expect every member to be there every time? If so, I think that's pretty damn weird. That's definitely not a situation I could be involved in. In my life, with my schedule, that's just plain unrealistic.

    I don't recall any RPG-playing friends having any such expectation until I got to college and regular "gaming groups" formed. Since then, the expectation that every person would show up to play every time wasn't because we all enjoyed each other's company, it was because when you're playing a continuing game with regular characters in a continuing story, the game, the "story," is thrown off when one or more people don't show up. It wasn't about the people, it was about the game. Frankly, I think that's pretty disturbing. If it's not about the game, if it's about the social activity of likeminded people getting together to enjoy each other's company and engage in an activity, then I do think it's weird (and unrealistic) to expect every person to show up every time.
  • edited March 2006
    Joshua,

    I know a few poker groups that play together pretty damn regularly. However, they don't scrap the game just because one of them can't make it. That angle probably is pretty weird.

    However, my experience of game is almost opposite yours. When I was in highschool and middleschool I had a group that I played with almost daily, and every member of the group was there for pretty damn near every game. Even when we'd switch games that we were playing all the same people would always show up. This, however, was about the people as we were a pretty tight group of geeks huddled together for mutual protection in an ugly school. (Which makes me wonder how much of gamer assumptions and behavior is based on this stage of social development.)

    Getting to college I started doing more games where the people would come in and out but the game would stay the same. At that point the people didn't matter, but the game did. Because you never knew who was going to be there, but you always knew what was going to be played, you showed up for the thing, and not for the people.

    And now, in my really real life, gaming is a mix of regular groups and catch as catch can. I have a lot of players who are immersionist types who only get their groove on when they can play the same character more than once (about four times, on average) and who find the oneshots too "game boardy." OTOH, I have a similar sized group who likes to try new shit out for one night and then move on. Makes for a comfortable balance for me, myself, and I.

    When I can get the bitches to do it, rather than doing silly things like taking care of their sick baby, of course. ;)
  • I think in almost any hobby, you will find groups that generate an expectation of people regularly attending. I'm pretty sure I've heard of poker groups who have a limited number of seats (perhaps the homes they play in only have so many chairs around the table), and that people who skip out too many times are at risk of being replaced by someone who can attend more regularly, and this expectation gets created because the players want 6 person poker games, not usually 6, but sometimes 3, or worse, only 2 (and if I haven't actually heard of such a group, I can sure imagine it).

    So I don't think it's weird for some folks to approach RPGs expecting a mostly continuous dedicated group.

    And for me personally, one of the big attractors of RPGs over board games is the extended play (the other big attractor is a more cooperative style of play, with the creativity probably in 3rd place).

    I know a few poker groups that play together pretty damn regularly. However, they don't scrap the game just because one of them can't make it. That angle probably is pretty weird.

    I've never had an RPG group where we scrapped the game if one player couldn't make it. We only scrap the game if "not enough players" make it.

    I'm also generally of the opinion that RPGs haven't really evolved any new modes of social interraction. There may be one or two bits relating specifically to the group imagination, though as you point out, children do group imaginative play. I am hard pressed to compare to my play as a child because most of my non-solo play was with just one other person (younger sister, or one friend). I do remember some kind of night time tag with toy guns that I played in junior high with a group of people. I was never (much) into sports (I was on a soccer team in junior high for like 1 season, or maybe less, and maybe that was the year we moved [I only remember attending one game]).

    Of course it also bears consideration that my high school gaming soon was club based, and while I had a core group of players who usually played in my games, they occaisionally played in other games instead, and there were other players who occaisionally played in my game. There was an ongoing game, but it didn't depend on having the same stable of players every week. I do miss this environment (it made it a lot easier to start new games because you could swipe one player from each of several games, as opposed to a club I was involved in later, where everyone was solidly in games, and you could only start a new game if you started up right as an old game ended, or when there was a burst of new players, of course the established games were also all full, so new players would show up for a week or two, not get involved in something, and leave).

    So yea, while I want an ongoing game, I would actually like to see more flexibility, and more coming and going, and less need to be so committed to games.

    Frank
  • Hey, we should start a new discussion about games and social structures when we were younger and how they might inform our play now. I think it's an interesting topic.
  • If responsibilities are going to be divided up, so that some players have different responsibilities than other players, they should be divided up so that all players have an equal level of responsibility. No one player should have to work harder than any other player.


    I've got no problem with this aspect--presuming that people want to have such equality. I've often experienced varying levels of commitment within the game--this is similar in aspect to the "not everyone expected to show" if not everyone is expected to have the same commitment, should they have the same level of input/authorial responsability, etc. if they're not willing to equally commit as someone else?

    Or rather: Shouldn't the authority be tied to commitment? For me, I've seen more games fail because of a few peoples unwillingness to commit as equally as others (actively disrupting play because of it) but that was an issue with the people involved.
  • Tim,

    My solution to a player who is disruptive or refuses to take responsibility for the game being fun for everyone? Don't invite that player over again. I don't see it as any more complicated than that.
  • Joshua N.,
    It's not about making it just unfun though--everyone has different levels of commitment--dismissing people who have a lower commitment than the another at any given point makes for very short games because peoples interest waxes and wanes. Making it un-fun is an extreme case--some of the time its just "not fully engaged".

    Your "not more complicated" would end people playing with you pretty quick, if you make such judgements on peoples commitment. It's obvious in play that they're not /as/ interested as another--but that doesn't mean they're not interested at all.
  • Oh, sorry. I was focusing on your comment about disrupting play because of a lower commitment level. But if you're just talking about "interested in playing, but not as committed as other people"...

    Off the top of my head, I'm going to say that I'm really not comfortable judging people's level of commitment, unless it's seriously disrupting play for everyone else. I mean, if it's "I'll defer to everyone else on the rules, because I can't be bothered to learn the rules, and I'm willing to abide by everyone else's decision," well, sure, fine. I don't see how that's a problem at all, and I'm not sure I see that as a lower level of commitment. As long as you're as committed as everyone else to behaving like an adult, treating people with respect, and making sure everyone is having fun, I don't see it as a big deal if you don't want to take responsibility for the setting or supporting characters or antagonists or game mechanics or whatever.

    But if you're not committed to acting like an adult or treating people with respect or making sure everyone is having fun...well, that's kind of a problem, isn't it? Not just for playing games but for social situations in general. So, why would I want to play with--or do anything with--someone like that? Similarly, if you're not going to create interesting characters or push the story in interesting directions or do the basic things that players need to do in a Story Game, why would I want to play such a game with you?
  • Joshua,
    Well in short the latter you wouldn't want, but again extreme case.

    Lesser cases can be obvious, and yet players wish to be involved just not as much as others and that's where I think "power" creates a heirarchy (and probably should be supported)--giving equal power to unequal commitment may not end well.
  • Tim,

    "May not end well"? Hypothetically, nothing ends well. And everything does. But since none of us know what may or may not happen, and since I'm not a slave to any rules, "may not end well" doesn't mean much to me.
  • What I think is weird is for the people in the group--outside of an amateur sports team, a music group or a performance group--to expect that each and every person in the group will show up each and every time the group gets together.

    Are we talking about the distinction between leisure activities where you come back next week because this week was so fun, and leisure activities where you come back next week because if you don't this week will have been wasted?

    The rehearsal and training mindset can be about investing in the future. The point can be to put on the show, or win the game, or whatever ... individual rehearsals don't have to be fun, so long as they contribute to the goal.

    I'm with Josh (all of them! You can't have different opinions, it confuses me too much!) I'm uncomfortable going into a roleplaying game with an "invest for the future" mindset. I think it puts a lot of strange social pressures on people.

    I've heard that the training that tellers (like in banks and stores) get is to concentrate on fulfilling one transaction at a time. Don't let a con artist flim-flam you into "Okay, but instead of handing me your change, just hold on to that and I'll give you this five spot, so now you owe me ...." Take one transaction, make sure it is done to completion, then start the next one on its own merits, and eventually you'll get through even the most complicated of requests. These days I feel the same way about RPGs. I like to take one session, make sure it's enjoyable on its own, then start the next one on its own merits.

  • Are we talking about the distinction between leisure activities where you come back next week because this week was so fun, and leisure activities where you come back next week because if you don't this week will have been wasted?
    Yes! The difference I see is "this game was so meaningful, let's do again!" and "if we don't do this again, this game will be meaningless." I think the first is great, and the second...all too common in my experience, but pretty disturbing to me.
  • Let's say you have one activity that pays off in the following progression:

    100, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100 ...

    And another that pays off in the following progression:

    1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36 ...

    Which would you choose? Which would you choose, if each trial had a 50% chance of being the last? 10%? 1%?

    The most rewarding games I've ever been in have been the 20th or 30th or 50th session of a long campaign. The least rewarding games (aside from con games, UGH) have been the 1st or 2nd session OF THE SAME CAMPAIGN.
  • It depends I guess on why a game is kind of blah. If we play once and it's blah, why is it blah?

    Do we all know each other? Is it blah because we don't dig the game? Did I as GM misinterpret your flags? Did it take too long to get to your turn?

    It's different, too, between investing in a game and investing in a group. I mean, even being friends with someone is an investment.
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