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LostSoul

First Post
jdrakeh said:
That's not true - all stories, whether thay're pre-scripted or generated extemporaneously have a beginning, middle, and end. Every last one of them. Decrying unavoidable structure as a shortcoming of the GM is a cop out - it isn't true and it avoids the issue of player responsibility.

If the DM already has the beginning, middle, and end of his story written out, those events are going to happen no matter what choices you make.

The kind of story I want to see in an RPG is one that is only apparent after you finish the game. "Oh hey, look at that, story." Not one that has its beginning, middle, and end pre-written for me.
 

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jdrakeh

Adventurer
LostSoul said:
If the DM already has the beginning, middle, and end of his story written out, those events are going to happen no matter what choices you make.

That makes more sense, but it still doesn't mean that players don't have choices, as you stated earlier.
 

LostSoul

First Post
I guess I meant meaningful choices. So if there is a story out there, and it is already written, there's no way you can make meaningful choices.

You might be able to pick from dungeon1 and dungeon2, but there's no point in going into that dungeon (edit: there's no meaningful choice being made), since when you come out it won't have mattered either way. Things will be just the same, the plot will have advanced on its schedule, chug-chug-chuging down railroad valley.

Unless, of course, you like dungeons just for the sake of dungeons, but then the whole story is just extra work that the DM is doing for himself. Then the choices are more about what feat to take or what magic item to get and what to do in combat. Which is cool.
 
Last edited:

jim pinto

First Post
LostSoul said:
I guess I meant meaningful choices. So if there is a story out there, and it is already written, there's no way you can make meaningful choices.

You might be able to pick from dungeon1 and dungeon2, but there's no point in going into that dungeon (edit: there's no meaningful choice being made), since when you come out it won't have mattered either way. Things will be just the same, the plot will have advanced on its schedule, chug-chug-chuging down railroad valley.

Unless, of course, you like dungeons just for the sake of dungeons, but then the whole story is just extra work that the DM is doing for himself. Then the choices are more about what feat to take or what magic item to get and what to do in combat. Which is cool.

While I don't agree with everything you've posted on this thread, LostSoul, this is an excellent concern.

You are describing the difference between plot-driven and character-driven adventures. Dungeon-crawling is location-based, but can be part of either kind of campaign, or just be part of a dungeon-hopping campaign that fuels the tastes of wargamers and miniature players.

You as a player are obligated to tell your DM, you want to play in a character-driven adventure where your character can impact the world (and I would certainly intend to address this in the book). And your DM is obligated to say... well, that's not going to happen in this campaign, but I'll try it next time... or whatever his response is.

I've said goodbye to all sorts of gamers in my time who couldn't handle the character-driven campaign (which by the way is what I predominately run). Some people like being pulled by the nose (event-driven), or sitting back and letting the NPCs' quests for power take hold (plot-driven).

Anyway. Your concern is valid, but not every DM is going to be receptive to your play style. And not every DM is receptive to min-maxing, either.

Good posts, today.
 

Lonely Tylenol

First Post
LostSoul said:
How about this: "I was a farmer. Today I went home and saw my wife being taken by orcs!"

DM: "Okay, you're going to hunt rats in the sewers."

Player: "That's lame, but if I don't follow his plot like this book says, I'll be doing something wrong."

DM (thinking): Okay, I've written a few sessions worth of NPCs and encounters. Soon the players will discover that their sleepy little town is actually the secret home of the Bandit King. Will they crusade to stop him, or join his band of ruffians? This should be exciting. But first, it's into the sewers to fight some rats and discover evidence of intrigue brewing...

DM: Okay, do you have your characters ready?

Player 1: I'm Bob the Wizard. I guess I'm probably the apprentice of the local wizard or something, and I've got dreams of becoming a powerful diviner and learning the secrets of the universe, particularly the outer planes.

DM: That's cool. Sure, you're the apprentice of old McGillicuddy the wizard. (notes down bit about outer planes for higher-level stuff)

Player 2: I'm Fred the Cleric. I serve Heironius and I aspire to join a holy order of protectors of the crown under the banner of the god of valour.

DM: Okay, there's a temple just outside of town you can be from. (makes a note to think up a holy protector prestige class with associated NPC organization)

Player 3: I'm Tom the Fighter. Some orcs carried off my wife this morning and we have to go save her, now!

DM: Uh, well, actually I don't think there are any orcs in the area...

Player 3: No, there are orcs. It says so in my character background, now you all have to come help me fight them! My wife is kidnapped. Do you want the orcs to kill her?

Players 1 & 2: Hey, nobody asked us if we wanted to fight orcs!

DM: I don't have anything like that prepared. You see there are these rats...

Player 3: *siiiigh* Okay, whatever. I guess you don't care about what I want to do. Your plot is lame. I hate this. Why can't I do what I want to? You're a crappy DM!

A bit overwrought, but the point is, it's a two way street. The DM has to do actual work to prepare sessions and put together a game. Some people can just wing it, making it up as they go along. That kind of DM is great if you want to just wander off and see what kind of adventures you stumble across. But most of them do things like write up statblocks, prepare encounters, and come up with overarching plots so that the events of the campaign hold together with some kind of sense.

Prep time is a big issue. That's why lots of people rely on modules. Of course modules are even more limited in player freedom, but how many people come on these boards and fondly remember White Plume Mountain or Temple of Elemental Evil? Quite bit more than complain that the DM wouldn't let them leave Hommlet and go gallivanting off into Geoff instead of stopping the evil freakin' temple from summoning a demon queen.
 


The Shaman

First Post
Barak said:
Here's a few things I'd like to see in that book, with examples!

-If the DM allows something out of the ordinary for you, don't whine about your choice afterwards.

I had a player who wanted to play a Watcher. Really badly. That's some dumb half-gargoyle-half-dwarf race from some book. I looked it over. It was alright. I warned the player "Fine. But you -do- realize that it's a +2 ECL race, right? Your Hit points are gonna suck bad." Player said yes. Two game sessions later, he's whining that his character has too few hit points, and should get 4d8 more Hit points, because gargoyles have Hit Dice. Ugh. Next time you ask me for something weird, you're getting a no, buddy.

-If the game is ongoing, and requires something specific to get your new character in, take that into consideration.

I'm running the WLD. In that setting, the characters don't get out. They don't visit towns. When a character dies, the player's new character will have to go/be on the dungeon on his own. So if you make your character, and I rack my brains to get your character where the party is, don't tell me "oh no, my character would -never- go there." 'Cause, well that won't work.
I wanted to highlight this post for two reasons: (1) I agree with both points, and (2) I want to clue you all in on the fact that Barak is an excellent player who knows how to create a good background, IMHO.

Barak is a player in a d20 Modern game that I'm GMing, a military adventure campaign. Knowing that his character would be fighting in an environment where just about everyone carries rifles, machine guns, or grenades, he chose to create a character with above average brawling skills, a former boxer dodging some bad choices that put him on the wrong side of the law.

Barak didn't expect me to change the engagements (encounters) specifically so that his character could show off his right hook - in fact, he said that he knew his character wasn't optimized for the kind of combat most prevalent in our game, but that it made the most sense for the character to have those skills and feats. He also said that perhaps the character could find time off-duty to do a little amateur boxing - at the outset of the game I encouraged the players to consider ways in which their characters would spend their leave time and suggested that we could create opportunities to roleplay these activities.

Without knowing it at the time he created the character, Barak's character background played directly into a number of encounters that I planned for the game, and I was able to use material from his character backstory to expand on those encounters. Note that I didn't create these encounters with Barak's character in mind - rather the background was specific enough to understand the character's motivations while general enough that I could then tie it into encounters already planned.

This to me is how a good character background influences both character creation and campaign development: mechanics are a function of character concept, and background is used to tie the character to the game-world, not as a source of encounters or plot hooks directed at that character.
 

Rel

Liquid Awesome
I'm mostly replying at this point to get subscribed to this very interesting thread. I'll have to catch up on where it's gone when I get back from out of town.

If I was going to sum up player advice into a few short sentences, they'd be these:

* Look for ways to "buy in" to the story rather than ways to "opt out".

* When your "thing" comes up (like combat for the Buttkicker or intense roleplaying for the Method Actor) embrace it fully. That's why the GM put it in there.

* When somebody else's "thing" comes up, let them enjoy it. And maybe even try to take pleasure in a friend being happy. Don't crap on it by acting as bored as possible in the hopes that the GM will hurry up and get back to something you're interested in.

* Tell the GM the things that you really enjoyed about the session. And tell him the things that you didn't care for so much. But understand that those two categories might be reversed for another player.
 

LostSoul

First Post
Dr. Awkward said:
A bit overwrought, but the point is, it's a two way street. The DM has to do actual work to prepare sessions and put together a game. Some people can just wing it, making it up as they go along. That kind of DM is great if you want to just wander off and see what kind of adventures you stumble across. But most of them do things like write up statblocks, prepare encounters, and come up with overarching plots so that the events of the campaign hold together with some kind of sense.

:lol: A bit overwrought, but funny.

No, you're right, of course; it is a two-way street. Player 3 made a few "errors" that would keep him from enjoying the game.

He didn't tell the other players or the DM about his background before he created the character.

He was completely unwilling to compromise.

He wasn't willing to see where things were leading.

If I was the DM, I'd say, "Okay, the orc took her to the sewers! Unfortunately, it's plagued by rats and worse. So maybe Tom goes to find Bob, a Wizard, and Fred, a cleric, who can help him out. And that orc? He had a red armband. You can make a Knowledge (local) or Gather Information check to find out what that's all about."

Now maybe I didn't have any orcs statted up, but I can change one of the NPCs into an orc without too many problems.
 

LostSoul

First Post
jim pinto said:
While I don't agree with everything you've posted on this thread, LostSoul, this is an excellent concern.

I haven't agreed with everything you've posted on this thread, but I agree with everything in your last post.

There's a lot of good stuff in this thread.
 

ThoughtBubble

First Post
Well, it's a bit late in the conversation, but let's pick this back up.

LostSoul said:
I'm not sure I understand you. Interested, though.

The arguement (to that point) went something like:
Players should follow plot hooks.
Only bad players build characters who don't follow hooks.
Here's a bad DM not working with a player.

So, it seemed to be that your example of bad DMing was set up to counter the idea of characters not following hooks. "not the right type of hook" does deal with some of the situations that crop up, but I have personally dealt with players who seemed to create characters where any hook was the wrong type of hook.

And I do like to think that I'm at least a mediocre DM. ;)

edit: hence, asking if the possibility of a bad DM who does not work with a player was enough to rule out players trying to work with any DM.

I was talking about the DM, but you could apply the same logic to any relationship.

I agree, it does have to be give and take. However, I find that when I DM, I'm giving 90% of the time. I think that my players probably give about 10% and take about 40% of the time. They'd be taking less, but I do my darndest to force them all into dealing with each other in the same room. In previous games, they probably gave about 5% and took about 20%. So, obviously there's a function of how much my time gets spread among the players, and how well. That's one of the reasons I point this at being one of my better games.

So, from my PoV, asking a player to give a little more is a small thing. Even if they give more than they get (which, as a player, I tend to do), they're still giving far less than I am as a DM.

And that could be a large part of why "Guy" our resident loner orphan who has no friends is the least satisfying character to have in the game. However, when he drew a cool picture of his character, it helped. :)

That brings up another good piece of advice: Communicate your desires to the other players and the DM. edit: Which is what you were saying.

Yeah, but it can't be said clearly enough, often enough. Speaking of which, I need to talk to my DM about not manhandling my background.

As long as we're here....I have this idea. I think that good play doesn't just 'happen'. Up until my recent superhero game, this particular group of players has never been strong on group cohesion or interaction. This is to the point where several party members will dispise another member of the party, who won't know about it because it's never mentioned.

Each of our games starts out the same, the DM comes up with an idea for a game, people make characters and roll stats. We expect it to all work out. I've recently been trying to convince people that we should think as a whole. I think we can have a better time of it if we make characters who have an honest reason for sticking together, working together, and talking.

It could be that, as a group, we just really suck.

But, my superhero game is going pretty well. There are still some rough spots, and there's way more shy or distainful charcters than I'd have liked, but there is some working towards actual discussion between the characters. So I think there's hope for the group.

I just think we need to make it happen.

Hence, that whole communication thing.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I see where you're going in that the good players are already good and the bad players just shouldn't play. But I think there are certain antisocial behaviors that COULD be targetted with a book like this. If your enjoyment arises from you being the star of a game and driving the plot with your character's actions alone, maybe some light reading on cooperative plot development could be helpful. Maybe some of these people really don't know HOW to give up some of the spotlight to the other players and still enjoy themselves. There ARE methods out there, but maybe they don't know them. This is one example of a person who is enjoying themselves at the expense of other people at the table's play. So there needs to be other options than "Cater to their enjoyment and let them steal the show." and "boot them they're just a selfish person and no book can change that."

The thing is, these behaviors aren't just limited to the game. And they won't be controlled just by a book targeting the game. A tome that tells people not to be selfish won't have any effect on selfish people -- the issue is psychological. Selfish people can only not be selfish by a concentrated effort to change themselves. Which they can do, but it's not really any D&D book's place to tell them to do it.

No D&D book can help a person not be selfish. Some gamers probably need a self-help book, or maybe just a good group of friends to be a motive for change. But a book isn't going to solve this problem.

Thus, it seems like the book doesn't add anything to anyone's game. It won't make people who don't want to change change, and if those people wanted to change, they would do it with or without the book.
 

DarrenGMiller

First Post
Kamikaze Midget said:
The thing is, these behaviors aren't just limited to the game. And they won't be controlled just by a book targeting the game. A tome that tells people not to be selfish won't have any effect on selfish people -- the issue is psychological. Selfish people can only not be selfish by a concentrated effort to change themselves. Which they can do, but it's not really any D&D book's place to tell them to do it.

No D&D book can help a person not be selfish. Some gamers probably need a self-help book, or maybe just a good group of friends to be a motive for change. But a book isn't going to solve this problem.

I think a distinction needs to be made between players who have some gaming weaknesses and players who have more generalized social interaction problems. Are some player's gaming difficulties related to their social difficulties? Sure. Would most of those player benefit from a book of this nature? Heck, most of them would probably resent the advice it contained and become defensive. However, some of them would be open to "becoming a better gamer."

I have known some people who seem pretty well adjusted away from the table, but sit across from them at the gaming table and things go south pretty quick. They become immature, selfish and rude. Why? In my experience, most of the players of this type look at gaming as a total escape and release. They feel that they can act in a way that they don't normally act. This is a stress release for them. The inner spoiled child comes out to play and the 9-to-5 nice guy adult gets locked up for a few hours. I am not sure if it they will take the advice offered in a gaming book that this is not acceptable behavior, but there is a strong probability that they might, I think. It sounds too simple, but some of this type of player have probably never been told that in gaming escapism it is not okay to drop the conventions of acceptable social interaction. They have possibly been bouncing from group to group or gaming with friends who tolerate the behavior.

Those gamers who do not possess much in the way of social skills will not get much if anything from this book and probably wouldn't read it. They are not the only ones out there though. There are also those gamres who are pretty good, but constantly seek to be better gamers. They would definitely learn anything they could from a book of this type. So, the book would have to work on several different levels. It would have to have SOME basic advice, information on social contracts and such, as well as more intensive subjects like genre conventions, etc. I also like the idea of a chapter for the "whole group" instead of aimed at individual players.

DM
 

Artellan

First Post
burningvoid & LostSoul's style

There's a fair number of 'Player Advice' articles on Heather Grove's BurningVoid website - http://www.burningvoid.com/rpg/play.php . They're divided into two groups - 'Character/Play' and 'Other'. For those that don't feel a book of this nature is worthwhile, do you feel that all of those articles are similarly useless?

Actually the BurningVoid website has a whole series of articles on Free Will in Roleplaying, where I think the concept of Free Will roughly equates to LostSoul's "meaningful decisions that affect the story".
http://www.burningvoid.com/rpg/gmfreewill.php

I've played in some of LostSoul's campaigns and I can shed some light on his DMing style ... He's one of those DMs that, if the players are always following his hooks wily-nily, he'll eventually get bored. He wants the players to participate in the creation of the 'story', to come up with ideas that send the campaign in new directions. If the players haven't been doing so, one of the symptoms of his getting bored is he'll run sessions where there aren't any obvious choices of what to do, no clues as to which 'adventures' he had prepared in advance. I remember the first time this happened and it was a bit unnerving - like a feeling that if I didn't go where I knew the DM wanted me to, my character might end up stepping off the end of the world - but I've since gotten used to it. Basically I just realized that he wants campaign INPUT. Sending the whole campaign spinning because of a choice I make during the game is cool, but it's pretty hard to do; luckily he's just as happy with emails between sessions stating character goals.

So as a player LostSoul wants to be able to have that same input into the campaign, whether through character background, communication with the DM about what he & his character want to do, creative in-session choices, etc.

Anyway, I think the discussion on this thread has been excellent, not just the free will vs. railroading stuff but all the ideas for player advice. It's neat to see the merit of player advice being debated ... I'm definitely in the 'a player advice book is worthwhile' camp. (Else I probably wouldn't have read all those BurningVoid articles.)

- Artellan
 

Artellan

First Post
The Shaman said:
There's a reason some adventures and campaign settings and character archetypes become beloved classics - it's the elusive, hard-to-define-but-still-recognizible attribute called Quality. A game can be fun for the participants without posessing the enduring appeal that is one of the benchmarks of quality.
I'm commenting on an old post here but I just wanted to mention, I've never seen anyone apply Metaphysics of Quality (a la Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) to role-playing before. Well done!

- Artellan
 

Barak

First Post
Oh and one more thing, I do not think this book would be useful.

Most people who might be inclined to buy it would find nothing in there they didn't know, either consciously or unconsciously, and the people who might benefit from it either wouldn't buy it, or wouldn't think anything in it applied to -them-.
 

FickleGM

Explorer
Barak said:
Oh and one more thing, I do not think this book would be useful.

Most people who might be inclined to buy it would find nothing in there they didn't know, either consciously or unconsciously, and the people who might benefit from it either wouldn't buy it, or wouldn't think anything in it applied to -them-.

I sort of agree with this comment, but the funny thing is that this in no way invalidates the feasibility of this sort of product. Look at the self help section of any bookstore and what do you find? Yes, shelves full of stuff that people already know, either consciously or subconsciously. So, while I would not purchase this, it may still have a place.
 

Barak

First Post
Hmm yeah. I guess it might sell well to people who like to read stuff they can nod along to, saying all the while "I'm like that!"
 

The Shaman

First Post
Barak said:
I guess it might sell well to people who like to read stuff they can nod along to, saying all the while "I'm like that!"
I managed a bookstore many years ago, and I had the opportunity to ask a psychologist why people bought self-help books - that was the EXACT reason that she gave!

That, and so they could look at their friends and say, "Oh, s/he is SO like that!" ;)
 


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