Mon Dec 16 21:01:48 2002
Topic is "DM Tools: Player Input"
(#Mark_CMG) Creative Mountain Games - Visit the Mark_CMG Site at http://www.creativemountaingames.com/
Mark_CMG DMing Chat sessions are held every other Monday night!
Mark_CMG Tonight's topic is "DM Tools: Player Input" We have a guest to help us tonight, in the form of CMG Team Member Jonathan Brock AKA Enrious. The reason Enrious is with us on this particular topic is because he's started a new campaign just recently. His set up, and the way he has chosen to develop it, involves a great deal of player input. How about if I let Enrious give everyone a basic idea of what he had planned to try and do with his new campaign.
Enrious You mean in a thousand words or less?
Mark_CMG How about a one sentence campaign summary to start? (smiles) Then let's look at the planned logistics in summary (I.E. level, classes, etc.) So before we even look at player input, Enrious started with a campaign idea, correct?
Enrious To begin with, I hadn't planned on having my players take much of a creative role in my campaign at first. However, when the tone and scope of the campaign became apparent to me, I realized that I had 5 very talented and creative people who could work on bits and pieces of the campaign (especially those areas that their characters would know) and leave me with a reduced workload. I am running a large campaign world (Forgotten Realms) which is taxing on a DM's creativity to begin with. Then I'm including the armies and races from Warhammer. That's a lot of conversion work. Then the campaign focus is a mercenary campaign, which requires a lot of detail to be fun and believable. Lot of creativity and work required for one poor little DM. I discovered that by parcelling out bits and pieces of the creative process to my players, I eased my workload while at the same time made my players more involved in the setting.
Mark_CMG Why a mercenary campaign, in particular? Just a whim?
Enrious I decided on a mercenary campaign for 3 main reasons: 1) I was about to be involved in a GURPS mercenary campaign before I moved, so my juices were flowing for a merc setting. 2) Many people are familiar with the Black Company (although I've never read the books) so I thought I could interest players. 3) I have studied mercenaries throughout history so I thought I could come up with a realistic merc campaign.
Mark_CMG And, to be clear, this is an online campaign, correct?
alsih2o (to Enrious) Have you found the players to be one-sided, or realistic in their building? (...and...) Were the players interested in balance in what they created, or did the lean towards character benefit?
Buttercup Following up on alshi20's question, were the players tempted to metagame?
Enrious My players tended to be very balanced. It helps that they are experienced gamers, but I think they would have tried to be balanced anyway, because I don't think they're powergamers per se. I would ask them to come up with something, with some guidelines and retained final veto on it, but haven't really had to alter any major portions. In some cases, they were assigned the task because they were more knowledgeable than me, so I decided that I wanted to have my players create the mercenary company, with the exception of a few important NPCs.
Mark_CMG What sort of level and meta-game parameters did you decide upon, or were decided upon by the group?
alsih2o "My character is from a town full of charitable alchemists"
Buttercup (to alsih2o) Yeah, exactly.
Mark_CMG Good ole "Potion Pete" (grins)
alsih2o Right, without including the high rate of lead poisoning from the local well.
Mark_CMG So they built their characters...and their own "retainers" so to speak?
Enrious Not quite. I decided to make them a small scout section, to help explain why they didn't adventure often with the main company.
Mark_CMG How many in the scout group? Just the PCs?
Enrious So they form a small detatchment of 5 PCs that is often away from the main group.
Mark_CMG (to Enrious) I see.
Enrious I tasked the players to come up with a company organization, along with names of major NPCs (excluding the commander and his second). Aside from a few questions, such as "how many cannons can we have?", I left the organization in place. The player thad came up with the organization made names, ranks, and a brief description or quirk about the depicted NPC.
Mark_CMG Ah, so they helped build parts of the campaign, flavor-wise, that they had no real control over once the campaign began, eh? So, back tracking, are there any questions asked that haven't yet been answered?
alsih2o Starting at 1st level?
Enrious I started them at 3rd level. They did a lot of the ground work in creating the mercenary company, again so they would have a greater attachment and OK. nowledge of it than they perhaps would have if they didn't, but now that it's started they have no real creative control of it. However, I do have them working on behind the scenes creations.
Mark_CMG Any class or race restrictions?
Enrious I wrote out a list of restrictions and created a webpage for them to frequent.
Buttercup So generally, you think this has been a successful experiment?
Enrious I think it has. I have an almost fully detailed mercenary group in which the players have vested an interest in. I think time will show that because of that, they feel a bond with it that their characters would feel. Currently it's one page; I'm planning on breaking it down into multiple pages in the next few weeks.
Buttercup Would you mind posting the url?
Mark_CMG Why don't you add links to individual pages of the campaign web site, and comment on each one as we go. We'll also try to give you some questions about each page as we go,. OK?
Enrious I could go on and on about the use of electronic tools as a campaign aide, but won't. (smiles) The company is still a work in progress, but that's mostly so I could still have some wiggle room to mould it.
Mark_CMG I think we should revisit that topic later tonight, if we have time, or as a separate chat. (electronic tools/campaign websites)
Enrious Other parts are still in progress and likely will as the campaign goes on. As an example, one of my players is creating the stats for various "typical" members of the company and a few of the other NPC groups.
Alustriel Did your players get into competition with one another in any way?
Enrious Not that I'm aware of, Alustreil. For the most part they already knew each other and they were given very different tasks to accomplish even if they were competitive about it. I did find that often they would communicate with each other so as to make their work mesh with the other sections.
Mark_CMG On the home page you have the rules for the session/game that you are running.
alsih2o (I like your stabilization rule.)
Enrious The metagame rules are ongoing and often reflect discussions with my players. I was lucky in that 3 of the players were familiar with the Forgotten Realms and 3 familiar with the Warhammer world, so many of my players could explain various campaign elements to each other without me risking revealing too much information. (then to alish2o) That stabalization rule was mentioned in a EN World thread.
Mark_CMG Let's discuss the "Session Rules" please.
Enrious I have one player writing the story hour, based on the game logs. When I get them, I will be creating a session summary for the players to reference. I've found that having summaries help focus the players when the game begins. If you can give them a few minutes to read them or email them just before the game, they can shake off the cobwebs and get back into the story.
alsih2o Interesting party make-up...Fighter, rogue, ranger, wizard, and sorcerer...
CMG_Nichar What? No cleric or paladin?
Enrious As for the party makeup, I make no influences as to the classes they chose with regard to one another. The only suggestion I made was to try to see how the character would fit into the lead scout section of a mercenary company. I also told the players that because it was a mercenary themed campaign, one of them would be ranked above the rest and act as the party leader but before the game began they could decide who that would be.
Mark_CMG Did you allow Warhammer races (even though the players didn't choose them)? (then to VagabondDM) I'm 40.
Enrious Oh yes. In my campaign, Drow and Dark Elves are two seperate races for example. The only thing I said if someone was going to be one of the "evil" Warhammer races was to make a believable background that would explaining them being in the party.
Alustriel I like that idea Enrious, considering that the drow I play is of CG alignment.
Mark_CMG (to Enrious) Tell us how you set up sessions, please? (smiles)
Enrious Can you clarify that?
Mark_CMG Each game session that you play, are they individual, ongoing, do they have goals for each, plus long term goals, etc?
Enrious Yes. (smiles)
Mark_CMG (grins) Tell us how it all began, with the first session. And how many sessions have there been so far?
Enrious I have a massive story arc that should end around levels 10-12, depending on what they do (and assuming the stay with the arc). So I have some planned events that will further it along, but also a number of "one-shot" ideas. There have been 2 sessions so far, with 1 scheduled each week. We spent about a month of prep time (for them to create the company and for me to get everything written down. The first session for me as a DM is always a "flavor" session, designed to introduce the players to the campaign. Thus it served to set the situation and the broad goal of the party/company. NiTessine is one of my players, who's helped me with the campaign setting.
Enrious The first session also ended with a specific mission being assigned, that if successfully completed could get the company closer to accomplishing the goal.
Alustriel A mini-adventure within the campaign?
alsih2o Did the players have any input on that first mission?
Enrious The second session was the party actually leaving the base camp and working on the mission.
Mark_CMG And what was that mission? (grins) Perhaps we can get the player's perspective?
NiTessine We're supposed to find out who butchered a bunch of our cavalry on their way to Longsaddle.
Mark_CMG Merely investigatory, or is there the idea that you will avenge them?
Enrious Longsaddle is a town located about 10 days travel from Nesmè, where the mercenary company is currently housed.
NiTessine More investigatory, and we're also supposed to deliver the message they were delivering... I think. It's been so long since the last game...
Mark_CMG How did it go?
Enrious Which is why the game summaries will come in handy.
NiTessine However, if the game works out like games usually work out, we will end up avenging them, anyway.
NiTessine Haven't finished it yet. Found one of the corpses, figured out they had been killed with firearms, and slaughtered a bunch of generic Small Humanoids.
Enrious Those were determined to be mammilian kobolds. (For E.G.Gygax)
Mark_CMG (chuckles) Nice touch...
CMG_Nichar Mammalian kobolds?
NiTessine As opposed to the 3E reptilian ones...
Mark_CMG Older DM's should appreciate that.
Enrious Not often you can lend an air of mystery around kobolds.
alsih2o Kobolds used to be doglike...
CMG_Nichar I see.
NiTessine Well... They sounded like kobolds, fought like kobolds, and I got my racial +1 bonus against kobolds...
Mark_CMG (chuckles) That always helps. (smiles)
Enrious I would like to point out that NiTessine is the person responsible for most of the structure of the mercenary company, coming up with the names, descriptions, and composition of the soldiers.
CMG_Nichar OK.. but why mammilian kobolds?
Mark_CMG Ranking also?
CMG_Nichar Sorry if I seem fixed on that...
Enrious In part because I like mammilian kobolds...in part because I had to explain why kobolds were found in the frozen tundra.
CMG_Nichar I see.
Mark_CMG Yup. You don't see many reptiles in the frozen tundra...that aren't popcicles, eh? (Or white dragons....)
NiTessine Enrious tinkered a bit with the ranks after I sent them... Veander wrote the company's history, I think.
Enrious He came up the structure (who was in charge, but I lowered the actual ranks). In retrospect, I should have been a little clearer about the rank names.
Enrious To be honest, he wrote way more of the history than I would have. (smiles)
NiTessine I also included an obnoxious Bretonnian, as homage to Monty Python... *Grin*
Mark_CMG It's nice to have that kind of enthusiasm from people.
Enrious The nice thing is that it introduces numerous adventure seeds without any influence from me.
Mark_CMG May I also ask how many players joined the creation process?
Enrious So far, I've made use of 3 players. I try to ask for help in a rotation to keep everyone involved.
alsih2o Which players go to which assignments?
Enrious Harlock is currently working on stats for the generic NPCs of the mercenary company and a few other NPC groups.
Mark_CMG That can be a lot of work, and not always the most exciting of the jobs.
Enrious (to alsih2o) At first I just detailed what needed to be done and let them figure it out amongst themselves. NiTessine is a crack Warhammer player, so making a mercenary company was something he could do with his eyes closed in the middle of a final exam.
Mark_CMG Just *going* to war isn't enough, eh? (grins)
Enrious My first three players were participants in another campaign, and the other two had expressed an interest at various times.
Mark_CMG Looks like a very strong group of players.
Enrious NiTessine and Harlock had helped me place the strongholds of the various Warhammer entities, for example. Early on I got help from zdanboy, a Mortality.net regular from Poland, and Nitessine when I was first exploring the possibility of putting the Warhammer armies in the 'Realms. Over time, Harlock started helping out with ideas and trying to be an advocate for having the Lizardmen be a "good" race. Seemed a shame to have him miss the Lizardmen Hord....uh, nevermind. (smiles)
alsih2o Do you plan on the party still being attached to their unit as they gain levels?
Enrious Well, part of the reason I have them as a scout detachment is so that they can be away from the main company without stretching things too much. Who knows, down the road they may stage a bloody coup and take over the company.
NiTessine (to Enrious) Thanks for the idea, I'll start the preparations immediately...
Enrious I'm sure you will. (smiles)
alsih2o When these guys pack on a few levels they will be more than a match for their compatriots. (smiles)
Alustriel (to Enrious) Do you think the campaign would be going as well as it is, if you hadn't had the players take a hand in the creation?
Enrious No I don't. I would still likely be struggling with names (because players object to NPC1, NPC2, and so forth), the history wouldn't be nearly detailed, I'd be using generic NPC statblocks, and I don't think the players would be as familiar with *my* mercenary company. In an odd twist, for example, the player who created the history is running the sergeant of the party, so if there's a time for a motivational speech using the history of the company, there he is. That wouldn't be possible if he were reading the history I created.
VagabondDM (to Enrious) Allowing the players a hand in creating the world is a good bet...it helped my original AD&D campaign to surive through 6 groups and 18 years.
Alustriel (to Enrious) Do you think that the players are more likely to stick with the campaign, as opposed to trail off an get bored with it...since they've helped develop it?
VagabondDM gives them a reason to hang onto the world beyond the simple....let's play a game attitude most take.
Enrious My last DMing experience was back in college, about 7 years ago. We did a rotational DM thing where DMing was rotated among the players. We helped create a very vibrant world, something I think can be best accomplished by the average DM (me) if you get your players involved. (to Alustreil) Right now it's really too soon to tell. Hopefully it will help make them less likely to give up the campaign in lieu of watching TV...but that's down the road.
Alustriel Give me gaming any day... (winks)
Enrious Right now I'm simply grateful to be able to look at a list someone else created and find the name of a lieutenant for a specific plot point.
Alustriel (to Enrious) Did your players evolve the mythology or theology any?
Enrious (to Alustreil) Not that much really. Had someone played a cleric or paladin or other religious character, they would have have license to bend, fold, or mutilate it a bit.
alsih2o What about spindling?
Enrious The only real extent is detailing the addition of some Warhammer powers and incorporating some material from The Book of the Righteous.
Alustriel The reason I asked that, Enri, was because when making my cleric for a game I found myself at a loss. The gameworld had no listing of the gods that didn't have a "major bearing" on their ideas. Tough to create the cleric of a sungod, when the world won't even give you that god's name.
Enrious I'm also glad that I can mine the company history for plot points.
Mark_CMG Let's open it up a bit and hear about some other experiences with this, if vagabondDM would please elaborate?
Alustriel (to VagabondDM) In Caermythe, how did the mythology come about? the players?
VagabondDM OK. I think the main reason that I decided to allow the players a hand in creating the campaign world was that in all honesty I was slightly unsure what route I wanted to take. So I had the players help guide the initial flavour of the world they lived in, after that it just became the campaigns trademark. I ran several other games over the years none lasting very long...because I have the attention span of a gnat. By allowing my players creative control of the campaign I had effectively locked myself into continuing it.
Alustriel ...and you're still continuing with Caermythe, right?
VagabondDM Right....clearing the slate so to speak...may keep some of the older material based on player say so.
Enrious I'm fortunate (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) from being able to use deity information from published Wizards books, going back to the original FR boxed set. In addition, I have a fairly extensive game library, so I can pull material from a number of sources. I'm afraid I tend to be a critic rather than a creator, so the more material available, the better for me.
VagabondDM Creating your own isn't to bad... I just reserved final say so on any material..something akin to the president's veto power.
Alustriel (to Enrious) With your setting being the Forgotten Realms, how much did the players flesh out the previously srawny settings? ...and someone else can jump in and ask questions here (laughs))
VagabondDM Ouch....previously scrawny settings? ...and you've never even played in Glorantha...
Enrious So far they haven't fleshed out any of the locales or main NPCs. Often, however they will come up with an idea that I hadn't thought of before. I'll write it down and they forget about it, so I can claim it as my own. (smiles)
Alustriel I've read some of the Forgotten Realm books, but they lack continuity and throw out conflicting descriptions sometimes.. so it's intriguing how this was handled. (Plus remember I'm wanting to run War of the Lance, and a demon vs Angel game soooo settings are interesting to me)
Enrious As an example, NiTessine asked me how I was going to handle many of the Warhammer dieties, in consideration of the vast number of 'Realms deities. I was planning on converting them over, when he came up witth the much simpler explanation that the Warhammer dieties were just other names for the existing Realms powers. That cut a lot of work out. (smiles)
Alustriel (to Enrious) Much like Greek vs Roman mythology? Same powers and positions, but different names?
Enrious Exactly, Alustreil.
Alustriel It's getting late. (laughs) Even the wee one in my tummy is starting to let me know that...
Alustriel (to Mark_CMG) 5 months come this Saturday. (smiles)
Mark_CMG Congrats to both of you. (smiles)
Enrious That was something I hadn't actually considered, but it makes a lot more sense than my idea.
Alustriel (to Enrious) Sounds like it makes it simpler for both GM and player and avoids re-writing a lot of information. To be honest, I think that's what I like about VagabondDM's world.
Mark_CMG Well, shall we see if there are any other topical questions and then, perhaps, wrap this up for tonight?
VagabondDM Which one?
Alustriel Caermythe.. it has an almost fully evolved Mythology of it's own... Hrmmmm... I can't think of any more (winks)
VagabondDM Blame my players for that.
Mark_CMG Any other questions or statements about "Player Input" as a DM tool?
alsih2o (to Enrious) I appreciate the info. (smiles)
Alustriel I think it's a useful tool. I wasn't around for Vaga's Caermythe creation and I've not had a GM otherwise who would do that.
Enrious I found in my own experience playing a divine character, that you often think much more about the church than the DM. I figure that to be true of most players in general. It's more personal to them than it is to the DM.
Alustriel Which means that I've never really had a *reason* to try and understand why someone acts the way they do.. or why a culture in a place is a certain way
Enrious And that applies no matter the class or race of the character.
Alustriel It's always felt more.. detatched.
VagabondDM Enrious, more than the church...my players went crazy!
Enrious From our college campaign, with the rotating DMs, I remember playing a sheriff type character, with someone else playing a rogue, and someone else playing a cleric. Our characters founded a city, so we each detailed various aspects of it. My character created the watch and jail, so I the player wrote those details down. By the end of the summer we have a very real city in which we knew every street an alley. It's an experience.
Mark_CMG (chuckles) Well, thanks to Enrious for having come up with this great topic and information, and thanks to everyone for participating in tonight's chat session. The next session will be two weeks from tonight on Monday the 30th of December.
alsih2o Then that's it for the year, right?
Alustriel Hmmm... I should be around then. (smiles)
Mark_CMG Be sure to watch the DMing Chat Session thread for information on a future topic and make suggestions there. I think we might look closer at "Mapping" in a not too distant session.
Alustriel (to Mark_CMG) I will make SURE I am here then.
Mark_CMG As that has come up as a good topic idea.
CMG_Nichar Mapping would be good...
Alustriel Mapping would be very good... since I suck at it. VagabondDM doesnt though. (smiles)
CMG_Nichar Same here...
Mark_CMG I think everyone always feels they can be better at making cool maps...
Enrious I'll just make my players do it. (smiles)
Mark_CMG (laughs) Good one, Enrious!
alsih2o That's a wrap line if I have ever heard one!
Mark_CMG Well, thanks again, everyone and good night to you all!