Casual vs. serious gamers, DMs Groups, and stuff you'll never use in a game...
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    Casual vs. serious gamers, DMs Groups, and stuff you'll never use in a game...

    While reading the NH Gameday thread, I followed baradtgnome's link to his blog, Gnotions and read his excellent creation myth. At the end he wrote:

    I feel that a creation legend is critical for the flavor of a campaign (at least one, there can certainly be more than one - in fact this is the human creation legend other humanoids have their own). More than just color, I use mine to telegraph my spin on good vs. evil as you many note the seeds in the legend above.


    What do you think? Is a creation legend useful to players or just the DM exersizing creative juices that no one reads more than once and never considers again?
    First off, I agree entirely with the first paragraph and as both a DM and player I greatly prefer when the DM puts that sort of background work into a campaign--it really makes the world come alive (This is also a major reason why The Lord of the Rings was so evocative; it was build upon the foundation of The Silmarillion, but that's another subject).

    That last sentence is what inspired me to write this post however. It got me thinking about just how much of my interest in RPGs has to do with stuff that isn't actually used in game sessions, or minimally so, and is really more interesting to me than it is to players. In other words, there is a disconnect between my love of world design and RPGs in general and the common level of interest among the players in my group. I think this is a common experience for DMs (or GMs in general) and points to a strong bifurcation in the gamer populace, between the "casual" majority and the "serious-to-hardcore" minority, most of whom are DMs.

    Now certainly, all of my players find backstory and setting stuff interesting, although probably not to the same degree as I do. And, as casual gamers who don't read or think about D&D outside of our twice-monthly session, most of them look forward to game night as what I like to call a "Poker Night for People with Imaginations," no more or less. Most of the guys in my group (and it is all guys) are fathers, in their mid-30s to early-40s with busy lives, and for them playing D&D is more of a way to have fun with friends, drink some beers, laugh, and kill things and take their stuff. Some of them take it a step further, if only by getting really into their characters; only one or two have a strong interest in fantasy and science fiction beyond the game session.

    And there is nothing wrong with that! I enjoy my group and our sessions are always fun, if not deeply immersive. But it has also made me wonder what it would be like to play in a group where everyone, or at least a few others, had similar levels of interest as I do, were "serious-to-hardcore" gamers who designed worlds, thought about different RPGs and game design, participated in discussion boards, were interested in what was going on in the industry, maybe interested in writing or art or miniature collecting and painting...In other words, a "DMs group"--an RPG group composed mainly of DMs/GMs and serious+ gamers.

    Perhaps it is a bit of an RPG Holy Grail for me: A group in which there were at least a few DMs, with some form of co-DMing, perhaps even in the same world and with the same characters.

    Thoughts? Does anyone have, or have had, a situation like this? Have you experienced both situations, a group of serious+ gamers and one serious+_gamer with a bunch of casual players?

  2. #2
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    My interest in gaming message boards has a lot to do with my furious interest in imaginary worlds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pawsplay View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    My interest in gaming message boards has a lot to do with my furious interest in imaginary worlds.
    Yes, me too. And the word furious is appropriate.

    You might be (inadvertently) hitting up the crucial element that my thread was getting at, in terms of asking what differentiates the casual from the serious gamer? It may be that, for many at least, it is a furious interest in imaginary worlds.

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    As you detected from my comments in the blog, my group is a mix of casual to more serious in a sliding spectrum. I think they all enjoy the color. I hope the tone of the game is more clear from the color. I will really enjoy if they ever connect the dots between the creation myth (some of it factual) and some of the world they encounter. If they don't, so be it. I would never penalize them for doing so. I guess in the mean time it is my own private joke.

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    I'm not sure it's quite so strict a division.

    Forex, I'd describe myself as pretty hardcore, but my playstyle tends toward the casual. I talk on D&D message boards and speculate on game design and enjoy tinkering with the rules for fun, but at the table, all I'm concerned with is what goes on at the table. I may think long and hard about world creation myths, but I'll only introduce it into a specific game if it is relevant to the PC action.

    What I do notice is that there is "bleed." If I'm thinking about cosmogony, my games will tend to skew toward having that be relevant. If I'm doinking about in noncombat subsystems, my games will probably get into a lot of that. This isn't really exclusive, but it is kind of a tendency.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurius View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    Thoughts? Does anyone have, or have had, a situation like this? Have you experienced both situations, a group of serious+ gamers and one serious+_gamer with a bunch of casual players?
    Really good food for thought and applicable to my own way of playing.

    First off on the blog quote (not re-quoted here), I don't think it is critical to have a creation story to have a good campaign setting but on the other hand, I can't seem to create my own settings without one. It really helps define the world for me and unroll what has happened since then. So I'm personally all for them although there are plenty of good settings without them.

    As for your specific question, the more serious gamers the better for me since those are the ones who will appreciate the setting and help drive the story more. I've always had a mix of casual and serious players. While my players are nearly always skilled in the D&D rules, they often include a significant element that really is not going to give any out of game material any thought at all.

    I really enjoy it when the players are serious enough that they will help create content. Worlds are big places; always good to have help be it the player's holdings or just a new spirit or group in the world of interest to the player's backgrounds. I always cut players a lot of slack if they choose to invest some time in the world with some out of game work.

    In general, with the one serious gamer, I tend to go for more ref-driven story because a single strong player is problemmatic in several ways: for one, he might not always be "on" that night and willing to pick things up- one too many beers, a hard week, whatever, we all have those nights. But also, if I rely too much on that player, it can create balance issues with the other players who might feel they aren't getting as much attention. Yes they aren't putting as much in but still, why raise the issue?

    With multiple serious players, I tend to let the players drive things more. Once they make their intentions clear, I still help present "story" elements, I don't do real sandboxes any more (mostly because I don't think we meet often enough to make this really work) but I let the players get immediate and obvious reward for their commitment to the game world by continuing to engage them with choices large and small.

    As to co-ref'ing, I often do it but usually just with one other player and we spend a lot of time making sure we are on the same page.

    One interesting recent experience on serious versus casual players- sometimes the difference between serious and casual is what you the ref make available to them.

    A friend just finished a campaign that was a lot of fun but was fairly linear by design and didn't have much setting material for us to dig into. We had a new player in the group who was good but I pegged as a casual player. When I prepared a fair amount of material for the campaign that we are about to start, I figured only my co-ref would read it and the other players would never spend time on it. To my surprise, the player I had pegged as casual read all the wiki pages, better even than my co-ref.

    This has come up on other threads- good, accomodating players will work with what they are presented. In a more linear campaign with the referee driving, they can have fun but will become more passive and let the ref drive. Presented with enough information to make informed decisions, they will become more assertive.
    Last edited by Haltherrion; Monday, 15th March, 2010 at 12:14 AM.

  7. #7
    I actually fear I may be more of a casual gamer than my players. They add feats and classes to their characters (D&D 3.5) that I have to go check for in the books they bring. Even basic combat sometimes takes me more rules-checking than some of the other people at the table.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurius View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    And, as casual gamers who don't read or think about D&D outside of our twice-monthly session, most of them look forward to game night as what I like to call a "Poker Night for People with Imaginations," no more or less.
    Is it just me, or does that quote seem kind of Elitist? I mean, I get your intent, and what you're basically suggesting (and I generally agree) but it sort of suggests that people that prefer poker over D&D (such as yours truly) lack imagination, which is generally fairly far from the truth.

    I'm probably being a touch too sensitive here, but that quote just bugged me. :P

    ***

    Generally, though, I think you're right on the money. DMs spend a lot of time on their world, and players often go "mm-hmm, yeah" and then kill the monsters. Which is perfectly fine. I will say, though, that I love it when players remember little world details that I've dropped - it's one of my favourite parts of the game. And when players actually develop emotional responses to world details, that's just awesome.

    For example, tiefligns are one of the bad guy races in my campaign, and one of the PCs (currently a spirit trapped in a magical brooch) needs to possess a human body if he wants to come back. He piped up with "hey! Tieflings are humans! I could totally possess one of them... and they're not, like, PEOPLE, so it'd be okay!". And the rest of the group agreed - none of them like tieflings.

    And then there's the fact that four out of the five players in my group absolutely HATE the dwarven cliff city of Drogas. As soon as I mention the name, they all start griping about the trials they've faced there, and how they'd love to burn it to the ground. WHile the fifth player (who loves the place only because he played a dwarf while the group was there, and loved it so much that he actually retired his dwarven PC there) fondly reminisces... prompting the rest of the group to throw stuff at him.

  9. #9
    I think world building depends a lot on the size of the campaign and how much you'll be playing in that setting.

    Obviously if it's just a one shot the setting doesn't matter that much. But if your campaign is going to be very long, or you plan on having other campaigns in that setting, then more work is always good.

    One issue I've always had with settings is that they're too clean. The gods and mythology are all so incredibly simplified and easy to understand, they lack the...well, the weirdness you end up getting in a lot of ancient mythology and faiths, but that weirdness is a good thing. Too much about settings seems derived from modern conventions.

    If I had to point out a place where the setting and cosmology was weird but in a fantastic (this is a fantasy game, it should be fantastic ) sort of way, it would be Morrowind. From the alien landscape, to the changing architecture depending on where you go (and how many DMs pay attention to that?), to the social stratification, to the wonderfully weird Tribunal religion, the setting is easily the game's strongest point, and every part of the game is filled with it.

    Now again, this may or may not be your thing. If the setting is just the place you happen to kill stuff in, then yeah, it doesn't really matter. But if you're going to be doing a long campaign or, even more, multiple (and perhaps long!) campaigns, then I'd say the setting matters more.

    As for how it relates to casual vs serious gamers, I think it's less setting and more how long the game lasts. If the game is more or less just "poker nights with imagination," then the game probably won't be this long, awesome, and epic tale of drama and adventure, it's more likely to be dungeon crawl of the week. And really, there's nothing bad about that at all - it's just one method of playing. Serious gamers, I think, are more likely to want big long tales and adventures with their characters.

  10. #10
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    Over the years, I've become a much more casual player than I used to be. I used to do all the world building stuff, creation myths, lots of detail, Ray Winnager, the whole nine yards. Then I realized that very few of my players cared about MY details. They might give me nine page backstories about their characters, but, would only gloss over the details I brought to the table.

    So, now I run a much more minimalist game. I mean, the sum total of my new campaign, as far as background material, can be found here which amounts to less than a single Celebrim sized wall of text. Granted there's a fair bit of background detail in the game book, but, a lot of that is chucked too.

    I'm a huge fan of a minimalist approach. IME, players just don't care that much. And I'm pretty sure that my writing isn't that good as well.

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