Archive for September, 2011

h1

Universalis

September 26, 2011

One of my favorite rpgs, Universalis, is now available on PDF. Universalis is a game that everytime I play it, I’m always surprised by how much fun it is – that is, it surprises me over and over by exceeding my expectations.

Universalis is a genreless, GM-less game, where the players collaboratively create a setting, situation, and characters.

Each player has a number of “Coins”, which you spend to establish facts about the world, or what the characters do. No one owns a character, but you spend coins to control them in a given scene.

When conflicts occur, dice are rolled to see the outcomes AND it replenishes coins for everyone involved (though winners get more), which gives a general incentive to have conflicts in play.

In play, what happens is that players start aligning in vision- the best way to play is to build off other people’s ideas, so you don’t need to spend as many coins, and to add ideas that everyone finds inspiring so they spend more coins on the things you’re interested in. The ideal strategy means finding something everyone’s excited in and reading the group.

That said, the game is very dryly written, and a lot harder to read through than it is to play. There’s also things I find usually get houseruled out, like having to spend a coin for each line of dialogue.

Overall, this is a great game, and if you can make it through the text, fun and easy to teach.

If you want to try a game with absolutely no railroading, and no GM, it’s a great game to pick up.

Advertisements
h1

Basically

September 26, 2011

“Serving the market”:

Comic about DC comics failure to serve women

h1

Risk and Emotional Investment

September 22, 2011

There’s a few different conversations going on that tie into an interesting idea: Where are people investing their emotions and willing to accept “risk” in play?

For the sake of this discussion, I’m defining risk as:

1) Something that can change in play, without a predefined outcome
2) That theoretically any of the players can affect, not just a GM

Character

Who is my character? What are they capable of (morally, emotionally)?

Pretty much the core of Narrativist play, risk in character means your character, as who they are, what their limits are, is at risk- you don’t know who they’ll turn out to be- you play to find out.

The idea of the character changing and evolving in unexpected ways ranges from classic Joseph Campbell to more pop folks like Dan Harmon’s formula.

For some folks, though, this is really scary. They have their character and they don’t want the edges poked at, don’t want to have to ask dangerous questions that may leave them looking at the character differently.

Obviously, this ties in a lot to being able to both emotionally identify with the character and being open to being surprised by the character as well.

I think a common problem for organizing Narrativist play hinges on this- Nar play is pretty easy as far as techniques go, but difficult if we’re talking about a group with bad social dynamics and trust issues.

Players used to GMs screwing them over, learn to never open up for emotional change, or worse yet, never invest in a character in play- you may see a 20 page backstory about a character, but nothing in play because opening up invites change and there’s no trust that anyone is going to support you in this exploration of character. (see “Where it goes wrong” further down)

Setting

What will happen to these NPCs? What will happen to this place? This organization/group/culture?

There’s tons of games that aim to do this, at least superficially.

The problem is that in a lot of play, you find out that a) the setting isn’t actually meaningfully changing, or b) control of that change lies only in the GM’s hands or a metaplot dictated by adventure modules.

Assuming you get past that, then a lot of groups find great fun in this – this is where players shape the world and find the world reflects the deeds of their characters- the places hold memories, and history, the NPCs have relationships to the PCs.

Both Simulationist and Narrativists enjoy risk here. Mostly, this is the area where people confuse the two as being “about story” in that vague way. Fictional Positioning plays a generally big role here as well.

Performance

Did I choose the right tactics? Did I convey that character well?

This risk is the emotional esteem of playing with other people- how well did you perform in the moment to moment.

While this is pretty much always in play for everyone, it is, by itself with nothing else, a minimal requirement for any investment in play. While being the minimum, that doesn’t mean it’s the weakest- social approval and personal esteem are powerful.

Performance investment exists on a dial – highly competitive Gamism and many LARPs rely on high performance investment, while most “silly” or “Beer & Pretzels” games have a lower requirement.

This is an observation, not a judgment of value, here. Or, for the less bright among you: I’m not saying this is any worse, lesser than, or “not real roleplaying”.

I think a lot of groups find themselves navigating muddy waters here – both in how much investment is expected of players AND how performance should be judged. Here’s where we see a lot of “Well, are they good roleplayers?” with “good” meaning anything from portraying a character well, to coming up with good solutions for puzzles.

Where it goes wrong

Where performance level investment is a problem is when it’s a symptom of being unable to get any other kind of satisfying play.

Notably, this usually shows up with players who aren’t getting the Creative Agenda they want. Being unable to have influence/control in the things you want to have in the game, means you’re left being excited that you managed to make a nice speech, or set up a power combo, or roll a 20…

You’re getting the best you can get from this, and that’s effectively where we start seeing “20 minutes of fun in 4 hours of play”.

It’s a clear symptom when you find players unable to go for any other type of emotional investment even if it’s what they say repeatedly they want.

I remember an L5R game where a player set himself up in a moral crisis (both what he said he wanted before play, and what he did in play) and when he was presented with choices, literally ran out of the room, angry. Instead of seeing me leaving the door open for his choices, he only saw it as an Illusionist “trap” – he couldn’t read where I was going (because I wasn’t aiming to go anywhere) and he totally freaked out.

Emotionally investing in risking his character, was too much – not because of any personal failure on his part as a person, but because the years of gaming had trained him that anything beyond performance was effectively a set up for an asshole GM.

The ability to create fiction or imaginary events AND enjoy them requires trusting enough to put some emotional investment into play- and having that hampered by the expectation of getting “hit” all the time, AKA “Abused Gamer Syndrome”, is basically what Ron Edwards was speaking about with the Brain Damage discussion.

What do I do with this?

When you sit down to start a game, really think about these questions and talk about them as a group:

– What does “good play” look like for this game?
– What’s at risk here? Are we excited about that? Is that the right game for us?
– Do we know the roles and expectations of the GM, the players and the general style of the game? See: Same Page Tool

For most of the folks I play with, this is like a 10 minute conversation when we’re figuring out what games we want to play – it’s like picking out a meal or what movie to go watch.

I know a lot of groups freak out about these kinds of questions/discussions, because they expect them to be some kind of massive multi-hour “discussion”(argument) which only leaves everyone feeling resentful.

For those folks, all I’ve got is recommended reading: Roots of the Big Problems and A Way Out.

ETA: Ron Edward’s recent essay on Setting & Emergent Stories is really worth reading here.

h1

Karma Folds (Sorcerer Exalted)

September 13, 2011

I’ve been playing my Sorcerer Exalted game on Google Plus with a couple of friends. We closed up our first scenario, and it went well despite the rough edges.

Social Context

We’re all late 20’s to early 30’s, and have gamed together here and there, usually about a year or two at a time, but due to geography, haven’t been able to for a few years now.

Les and Dave both have played an Exalted campaign or two – none of us are totally stuck on setting canon, which is good, because I’m only really familiar with the Solar Exalted core book and the rest of the stuff I never got into.

We all share a strong common background in movies/anime/videogames we’ve seen/played, so it forms a good common reference set.

Color & Inspiration

The setting of Exalted is a fantasy Asia, somewhere between Hero, Ninja Resurrection and older Final Fantasy games. This game started in the city of Bei Long, a city built around a massive library.

The look of magic is anime- Solar Exalted use powers and glow with an anima banner of power, fast fighting, people get slammed around, and nearly all magic has some kind of overt energy blast kind of thing going on. The demons are all the past lives of the Exalted, usually appearing in dreams, flashbacks or momentary hallucinations.

The Sorcerers

Kwan is a young paper artist of 19. His family was killed during the great Machine Rampage a decade ago, and he was taken in by Master Mei, and trained in the arts. (Her daughters were killed in the same accident).

Stamina 5 (Laborer, Ascetic lifestyle)
Will 3 (Natural Exuberance)
Lore 2 (Memories of a Past Life)

Covers (Papermaster 5, Twilight Caste 3)
Price: Infamous – the sole survivor of the Machine Rampage -1 to all human interactions.

Demon: (his past life) Han Fei, the Geomancer (power 9). A sorcerer obsessed with creating life, sentient life, just to see if it could be done.

Hui Jin is a civic engineer in his early 30’s, whose ingenious machines and alchemy has produced numerous projects over the years. His greatest failure, though, is the automated mill that became possessed and began the Machine Rampage, forcing him to seal it in alchemical salt.

Stamina 4 (simply healthy)
Will 5 (driven, believer in destiny)
Lore 1 (Hapless fool)

Cover: Alchemist & Engineer 5, Night Caste 4

Price: Overconfident -1 to first die roll of any scene

Demon: (past life) Lao Jie the Breathstealer (power 9). An alchemist seeking immortality… by alchemizing his own blood into different substances.

Play

As I mentioned before, the game started out rough between technical issues and me poorly prepping, but it ended well.

Important background stuff: two of Han Fei’s creations Tan and Kai-ti, sentient beings made of paper, had been looking for his new incarnation and came into town 10 years ago.

Tan had been despondent, and attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself into the new automated paper mill (made by Hui Jin), which then went berserk with his rage and despair. The people he killed, were turned into paper, and their souls sealed in along with him when Hui Jin tossed a Contain on the whole affair.

Now: the Imperials have sent troops to “rectify” the library as well as find the “paper which can contain souls” as their divination had indicated.

Some highlights:

– A ghost trapped in paper, coming back to frame Kwan for murder
– Hui Jin using crazy alchemy to gas Imperial troops into unconsciousness by throwing chemicals into various lanterns in the area.
– Kwan freeing the city god and vowing to find all of the wayward “children” he created in the past life
– Mei, Kwan’s master, thanking him for finding vengeance against the man she believes responsible for her daughters’ deaths, but letting him know they would be enemies if they met again.

System Observations

Voice chat makes online gaming actually playable for me. That said, I still found having to use a dice roller a bit clunky and tried to avoid doing the multiple rolls whenever possible (“Roll cover to get bonus dice to make a primary roll”). That may disappear with some practice.

The 90 minute sessions work fine. I found it’s short enough people don’t get distracted on the computer, which is a constant danger with online play.

There was a lot more swinginess to the dice than I expected. I saw more than a few rolls where someone came out with 5-7 successes (!). I’m hoping that’s just how it is, and not some wackiness on the part of the dice roller.

For Sorcerer, everything hinges on Humanity checks/gains, which hinges upon your Kickers and relationships. In this game, it’s about making/restoring relationships – Kwan had several to use – ghost dad, his adopted mother/teacher, his two paper golem “children”. Hui Jin didn’t have any and that became a problem for engaging the character, and the player played cautious as well. Hopefully I can get over that next session.

Humanity to stat gains: It was really interesting- Hui Jin got all the stat raises, while Kwan didn’t get any- even though Kwan had all the Humanity gains throughout play.

We’re excited to do some more, and next go around I’m going to push for stronger Kickers and prep from that.

h1

Externalizing Motivations

September 12, 2011

“Real roleplayers don’t need motivation mechanics!”

There’s a funny old school attitude I see sometimes.

“I don’t like D&D, because it’s just about beating up monsters, you only get experience points for fighting. I’d rather roleplay!”

“Ok, here’s this game where you get experience points for chasing your goals, agonizing over motivations, falling in love, and roleplaying.”

“That’s not real roleplaying! That’s a boardgame! You’re not roleplaying anymore because you’re only doing it for points! The game is telling you how to roleplay!

In this school of thought, the only way roleplaying can happen is if mechanics never influence players in how the characters make choices.

That said, it’s also pretty tough to make work- everyone has to be exceptionally mindful of remembering to constantly display/reveal character motivations, stick to them, and support each other in the process.

When this is tied to Actor Stance only, each player trying to “just play my character”, results in the characters constantly pulling away from each other and not doing much to address each other’s motivations.

Paul Czege Principle

A useful idea is the Czege principle, which points out that in roleplaying, it’s not really fun to be both the architect or creator of a problem or conflict AND the person who decides how it resolves.

This is part of the reason many games continue to use stuff like dice or cards to determine results- even if you end up being the creator/resolver, the randomizers force restrictions on the actual outcomes.

In a sense, when you follow that old school idea of no motivation mechanics, you end up with all motivation choices being conflicts players themselves create, and resolve themselves, because there’s no other “handles” for the rest of the group to really grab on to.

The fun of hard choices in fiction

In fiction, we often like to see characters make tough choices. Because we are watching/reading a story, we’re not 100% sure which way things will turn out, and the more in doubt the outcome, the more tension we experience as an audience.

In roleplaying games, the reason the Czege Principle applies is because there’s no tension if you know absolutely which way you will go.

What motivation mechanics do, is they apply a pressure upon you, as a player, and create a tension, which might make things a little unpredictable for you, the player, even.

The character’s motivations have been externalized- something which might be influenced by something other than just you, the player.

Rewards

A commonly used method is to reward motivations. Several games initiated this type of mechanic- The Pool, Hero Wars, Riddle of Steel. Currently Burning Wheel and Fate are probably the two most popular examples of this.

While giving points for doing things is pretty simple, the more interesting results are when two or more motivations conflict – do you support your wife in child labor, or do you volunteer for a mission that could secure you lands from the King?

A common mistake is assuming that reward mechanics are “locked in” – that once you choose your motivations, you are trapped to just those. Most games that use these allow you the option to change them, naturally as the character’s motivations change.

Temptations/Deals

Another type of motivation mechanic is the “temptation” or offer – if you do X thing, then either you -might- get something, or you will get Y thing in exchange.

Polaris uses straight offers in this regard, each player making deals back and forth with another player who has the role of being the antagonist.

Drifter’s Escape, on the other hand, uses temptations, with 2 GMs asking for certain favors in exchange for giving a series of cards. This one heightens the tension because the GMs are allowed to lie about how good their card hands are, before you get them.

Reward systems tend to focus on the raw pursuit of your motivations, while temptation/offer systems focus on your character taking unexpected choices or motivations along the way.

Restrictions

Restrictions limit or hinder actions your character can take.

The most infamous example is old school D&D alignment, which apparently has colored a lot of peoples’ perceptions of all motivation mechanics as removing the ability for character change and growth.

In actuality, these can range from numerical penalties (“You’re at -2 to fight your beloved, since, you know, you love him.”), to situational restrictions (“You agreed to help with the plan, but if it goes sour, you can change your mind.”).

Usually the biggest contention is around social mechanics and restrictions brought about by them.

Successful social mechanics:
1. Let you decide whether you’ll entertain an argument at all
2. Limit requests/demands to something reasonable
3. Have an opt-out either as a mechanical option or part of the situation (“You agreed to help with the plan, and it’s clear the plan has failed, you don’t have to help anymore.”)

Again, though, this is just about externalizing motivations – with these kinds of mechanics, you have other players and characters jockeying to influence your character and provide tension.

Questions to Answer

Externalizing motivations means you end up having to play to find out who your character is.

“Will I stand true to my friends in the face of evil?” I don’t know! Am I tough enough? Am I hard enough? What prices will I pay to do so? Are they worth protecting after all?

Sometimes folks like Vincent talk about being unsafe with your characters, and I think this is really the kind of stuff these mechanics produce- you start play with an idea of who your character is, but over play, you discover it as much as anyone else in the group.

Sometimes your character is more amazing than you thought, sometimes they’re a terrible person, sometimes they’re both.

Some people imagine this “destroys immersion”, but I find it’s just fine with it- sometimes I find myself doing things I didn’t think I had the courage or sense to do, and sometimes I go, “Wow, I can’t believe I can be such a dick.”

Anyway, hopefully this gives you some idea of how these mechanics work and what they do.

h1

4E: Approaching & Setting Up Skill Challenges

September 11, 2011

Someone recently asked me about Skill Challenges and a bit more on how to apply what I wrote earlier on them.

The Secret to Easy Times

Here’s something that will set any GM at ease – remember that at the heart of a skill challenge, here’s really the crux of your job:

Tell the players if what they want to do is Easy, Average, or Hard, and look up the difficulty number for that.

If you can exercise the brain power to say, “That sounds tough, but not too tough, so I’ll call it Average”, then you can make a Skill Challenge work, even if you have to do it on the fly. (Yes, you can also say something is automatically successful, or automatically fails, but you get the point)

So, just keep that in mind- all the rest of what I’ve written before, and am writing here, is really just extra stuff on top of that.

Prepping vs. On the Fly

Sometimes you can prep things, sometimes you do it when it comes up.

For prep, it’s easy if it’s been an established goal, whether the party is following orders (“The Queen has ordered you to negotiate with the Dwarves”) or have established their own goals in a previous session (“Let’s head up the mountain and see if the Temple is still up there.”)

For on the fly, there’s a couple of extra steps, but not terrible ones, since, as I mentioned, in the end, it comes down to calling things Easy/Average/Hard.

Stakes and Scale

Make sure you know what the party is trying to do, and whether it’s worth making into a Skill Challenge. If it were a movie, it’d be a scene or several scenes tied together. If it were a videogame, it’d be a level unto itself or at least a section of a level.

Unlocking a door isn’t worth a Challenge, but breaking into a castle and getting the prisoners out is worth a challenge.

Some players are used to hiding their ultimate intentions from the GM, mostly because they’re used to playing with “Gotcha!” GMs who would retcon the world to sabotage anything clever they might do.

First, don’t do that as a GM, second, explain to them that you’re not going to do that as a GM.

Remind the players that IF they succeed at the Skill Challenge, THEN you will absolutely honor that success- they WILL get their stakes. If they aim too high, let them know what a more realistic goal is (“We’ll win the war!”, “Not with one Skill Challenge. You can take this city, and it’ll take hours to do so, but that is within your range.”).

Second, consider the scale of events. A Skill Challenge is what I imagine to be 10 minutes to hours of effort by the characters, at least. If you think it can happen quicker than that, ask yourself if it really needs to be a Challenge.

I mean, sometimes, but most of the time not so much. The number of skill challenges that involve acting quickly, like getting your boat to a riverbank before it goes over the waterfall, are pretty rare. And a lot of skill rolls are just boring. If it’s not a big deal, skip it, skip it, skip it.

Planning – Players’ and Yours

If this is on the fly, and the PCs can have a few minutes to plan, let the players do so. Meanwhile, you’re going to write down some general goals for the Skill Challenge – while listening in on what they’re saying.

Write one Goal for each Success the players will need.

For example, “Breaking prisoners out of the castle” might have these goals:

– Get into the Castle
– Get to the Dungeons
– Keep the Guards out of the Way
– Break out the Prisoners from the Dungeons
– Get the Prisoners out, unharmed
– Get the whole Party out of the Castle

Notice that none of these say HOW the party is going to accomplish any of them. Which is fine, because the players can be as flexible as they want to be in doing so.

Don’t be super secret about these goals either- the players can look at them – and make suggestions if it doesn’t fit or they have really different plans about what they’re doing. Mostly, though, if you have to revise these a lot, you probably should be taking more time to figure out the initial Stakes.

These Goals don’t have to be set in stone- if something happens during the Challenge that makes something better or different (“Oh no, we weren’t planning to leave, let the prisoners go, we’re going to corner the Duke instead”), then go with it – add or change goals as fits.

Playing it out

Let the players say how they attempt to do various things.

Remember, is it Easy/Average/Hard? Is it an auto-success/failure?

If they fail, that doesn’t mean the Goal can’t be achieved, it just means they have to try it a different way. If they can’t get to the dungeons through the normal entrance, maybe they have to go through the Palace instead.

A slick trick is that if the player fails at one attempt, to give them an opportunity at a different goal. “The dungeon entrance is guarded, but you realize that if you can get to the wall, you could drop the porticullis and leave most of the guards trapped in the courtyard…”

I like to use successes to point to advantages outside of the Skill Challenge- useful equipment (“Sneaking through the stables, you see the new saddlebags the Duke had made, unattended, and brand new…”), information (“The guards mention they’re glad they’re not posted on the Wyvern watch in the north, it’s been a lot of casualties…”), or allies (“The prisoners come running out… and your old friend Namal the rogue was in a cell as well!”).

The trick to this is that it really rewards success, or at least gives some prizes if they fail a skill challenge, and generally pushes players to do something after this challenge is over, as well.

Getting Everyone Involved

There’s two ways to do this.

First, you can target the PCs who aren’t doing anything with either opportunities, or problems.

“She sneaks in, and you’re keeping watch, and you see a boat full of troops coming down the river. They’re coming back from an expedition and will be that many more for you guys to deal with- maybe you can distract or delay them?”

Second, you can penalize the “do-everything” players. You can simply give a harder rating, or a -4 to every successive roll they make until someone else takes over. This shouldn’t be arbitrary- give reasons. “Yes, you snuck in and you got to the dungeon, but there’s no way you’re going to both pick the locks AND keep the guards at bay at the same time…”

Remember, there’s several goals, and players should be thinking about how to get them done all at once, or in short order.

Yes, this means some players will end up doing sub-optimal tasks for their characters- that happens! Maybe they’ll find a creative way to use the things they ARE good at to handle the problems.

Reward Good Thinking

Smart choices, good roleplaying should get easier rolls. I know the most recent Skill Challenge rules ask for a certain ratio of Easy/Average/Hard rolls, but skip that mess- just pick what makes sense based on what choices the player is making.

Give Auto-successes for perfect choices- don’t plan ahead what a perfect choice looks like, just when a player describes an action and you go, “That’s perfect!” go with it. Did the wizard use Ray of Frost on the burning cottage? Auto-success. Did the knight swear an oath of honor in front of the veteran knight in exactly the right way? Auto-success.

Likewise, pure dumbassery should get auto-failures. Using Intimidation to try to get on someone’s good side, trying to impress someone by displaying the opposite of their whole life’s philosophy, etc.

Most of the time, stick to the Easy/Average/Hard rolls, but definitely let players know that good choices significantly impact their odds.

Action vs. Social Challenges

Action challenges are about going around and doing stuff. These are pretty easy to work with, since the players will come up with ways to achieve the goals.

Social Challenges work a little differently! If it involves a group of characters (“Impress the Council of 9”) you can write down a single sentence for what each character is looking for.

Mostly, you can win these challenges if you get X number of folks on your side, and, keeping in mind some folks count for more (“The Elder of the Council counts as 3 successes, since he’s got the most pull”).

Examples:
– Markus wants to know the PCs are reliable.
– Hande only respects a good drinking buddy.
– Fenzel respects wisdom and knowledge. A level head.
– Jira won’t respect cowards or weaklings.
– Anam wants someone to back his power play.
– Ravik loves history and tradition, dislikes ignorance.

Roleplay how they interact! Go with the classic Autosuccess/failure, Easy/Average/Hard. Successes might impress these characters and make lasting supporters, failures might make it harder to get their help in the future.

If you have just one character, or a few, then you can list several goals they have, much in the same way:

– Show me you are civilized, can you adhere to polite tradition?
– What is your intent, and why should I support you instead of sending my own servants?
– Tell me of your deeds and your family. Are you courageous?
– Why does a foreign cleric travel with you? Are they a simple huckster?

In conclusion

All said and done, it’s actually a lot easier to improvise a fun Skill Challenge than it is to improvise a fun encounter. There’s less math, less considerations, and less balancing you need to worry about.

Get the gist of what they want to do, lay down some broad goals, and let the players figure out how they fix the problem, and support them in making any reasonable choices to do so.

h1

“Indie Roleplaying Destroyed My Group!”

September 10, 2011

Every so often on forums, I see some version of this kind of statement. (Sometimes, “Forge theory destroyed my group!”).

Here’s what happens:

A lack of honest communication

You have a group of people roleplaying together, with a long term commitment either established, or as the goal. A part of this commitment is the plan to play a particular game, or gaming style. All of that would be fine, except, like too much of the rpg social scene, this group doesn’t have honest communication.

Now, here’s where the problem comes in- did anyone communicate and agree to the specifics of the game/style? Or is it just assumed? Or is it just a compromise everyone is willing to accept? (“Well, everyone will put up with playing D&D, so D&D it is…”)

If you have a clear agreement, then there shouldn’t be confusion. But if you wanted a poker group but simply said, “Let’s play cards!”, you can’t be angry if someone decides they want to try out Spades or Rummy.

So the real issue that usually shows up is that some of the group is committed to a specific game or style, but it wasn’t made clear.

So someone shows up with a new game, or idea about gaming. Things that can often happen include:

Battle to try it out

The suggestion of a short run, or even a one shot is met with harsh resistance, by either a few people, or the whole group.

Often, this is also tied into two things.

The idea that there’s One True Way to Roleplay means that any other ideas are dangerous and will lead to Bad Roleplaying which will make you a Bad Person.

The Geek Social Fallacy that you must like what I like, or you don’t like me, in which case, the suggestion is treated as an insult.

The new adopter(s) will be perplexed at the resistance, and try harder, which will be taken as greater insults by folks, and instead of, you know, actually talking about what you’re all looking for, it becomes a pit of festering resentment… which makes the next part more ugly.

Possible Sabotage?

The group finally tries out the game. It’s already going to be hard enough to try out a new game or style, with a learning curve that probably should take 1-3 sessions.

Not uncommonly, the most resistant folks can decide to try to break the game, or grief the session in an attempt to “show how bad it is”. Sort of like peeing in a new dish then saying, “See?!? I told you it’d be terrible!”

Naturally, this behavior will also be taken as an insult to the new adopter(s), since it’s basically throwing a fit.

If the social situation is extra toxic, the griefers will then attempt to talk to members of the group outside of play, in an attempt to convince them how terrible that was and that they should all lobby together to return to the “normal game”.

And, a divide

Assuming play survived any of that, some of the group may find they like the new game or game style, some may not. The resultant discussion and desire to play different games falls into the Geek Social Fallacy I mentioned, and people treat it like it was a failing marriage – rather than saying, “We’ll play this, you guys play that” and amicably remaining friends.

Destruction and Ruin!

At the end of it all, the drama spirals into the group changing, and possibly friendships lost along the way.

The question to ask though, was it the new game or gaming style that did this, or the lack of honest communication?

I game with a lot of different folks, and have had a couple of long standing groups- where we try out different games, we play for a while, do other things for a while, and come back. Sometimes we really like a game, sometimes we say, “This isn’t for us.”

The games don’t destroy our group, because we’re not committed to only playing a single type of game, or feeling that there’s only One Way to Roleplay.

To be sure, we have preferences and interests…but there’s still a lot of different games that fit within our overlapping interests, and each of us is willing to go a little out of our comfort zone to try something new.

It’s not really a game, or gaming style that destroys a gaming group – it’s the fanatical belief that the group must stay together, forever, that you have to play a certain way, that you must like the same things or you don’t really like each other.