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An Essay on Play Style

GOD
I just wrote a lengthy screed to a group that's forming (and that I hope to join) where a new, young player is having a lot of difficulty with the preferred style of the rest of the group.  I think it's fairly cogent, so I've removed identifying features and am posting it here.  Feel free to offer opinions and suggestions or not.  One of the things I like best about my Flist is the accumulated role playing wisdom contained therein.

If you're playing alone, or playing a videogame, yeah, there's no reason you can't just do whatever you like.  You're the only one who suffers the consequences.  You're not playing alone, though.  Roleplaying is a social activity; you do it with other people, and the goal is supposed to be fun and enjoyment on the part of all involved. Other peoples' feelings and comfort levels are involved. That changes things considerably in terms of what kind of "edginess" is acceptable and what makes you jerk for doing it.

If your character charges into the enemies and ruins any hope the rest of the group might have for a tactical approach, that affects *everyone*.  They can try to rescue/help him (risking their own demise), or they can stand back and let him take the consequences of his action.  If he grabs any loot he sees and tries to hide it from the party (because "my guy would do that"), understand that the others would be perfectly justified in saying "We don't want you with us - you screwed up the ambush and stole from us." and walking away.  Or killing him and leaving his corpse for the carrion eaters.  If YOU are entitled to only consider your own needs, so are they.

There's a knack to playing with a group.  The GM is off, imho, to an excellent start with her social contract.  The discussions on this list are also a good beginning - it's a chance to discuss viewpoints and expectations.  I do get the impression that your experience with group cooperation is somewhat limited.  Cooperation does NOT mean just rolling over and letting people bully you.  It DOES mean taking into consideration that everyone has needs, desires and expectations, and if you don't want to consider anyone else then you can't expect anyone to consider you.  Also - cooperation is not "communism", nor does it mean no conflict between characters.  It does mean keeping the group objectives in mind, and treating others no worse than you would like to be treated.

From your postings, it looks like YOU want a fighting-oriented, fast advancing, statistics-heavy, every character for himself game.  Your problem here, as I see it, is that looks like NO ONE ELSE, especially the GM, wants that game.  The irascible loner is a great protagonist in fiction, but a RPG campaign as more like an ensemble TV show.  It's not starring any one character, and the drama comes from overcoming their differences and incompatibilities to achieve a greater goal.  The focus will shift from episode to episode, but everyone gets their time in the spotlight (and their share of the goodies).

Being a part of a social group (and a game is certainly a social group) invokes a host of conflicting, unwritten expectations.  Talking about them is at least a way to get them out on the table so we each know where the others are coming from.  It also involves constant compromise -- from everyone.  When there are points that can't be resolved and make the experience Not Fun, *then* is the time for somebody to walk away.

Most of the players in the group are working adults with a lot on their plates. Most of them, as you observed, are ROLE players, and are looking for a cooperative, story-oriented style of play.  If the game isn't fun for them, they'll walk away -- including the GM.  Remember, if the GM ain't havin' fun, ain't nobody havin' fun.  You might "win" by virtue of being the last person in the game before the GM quits.. but what kind of victory would that be?  It sounds, from your posts, like your preferred play style is pretty much totally opposite -- but -- have you ever *tried* the other way? With people who know how to do it very, very well?

Give it a try - you may find that it's more rewarding than you expect, in ways you don't anticipate.

Comments

( 17 comments )
yeopard
Sep. 23rd, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
Very well done.

On a purly self-serving note, would it be wrong of me to want this person to drop out so I can have a chance at that home game? I didn't get on warhorn soon enough to win a slot but would love to play with the people I know are there already (and with the judge). ;)

jaegamer
Sep. 23rd, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
Wrong? dunno... understandable. Of course, *I'm* going to insert myself when I put it up on Warhorn. (evil grin)

You should join the list. Srsly. Via your Gmail account, and make a filter that files the stuff as read, 'cause dude... they talk a LOT.
selenite
Sep. 23rd, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of a guy in my late Eberron campaign. Character was an over-optimized combat monster, player was rushing in and ruining plans. We attributed it to him being younger (21 year old, with rest of group being married couples in the range 30-45) and applied feedback. Including a couple instances of a rolled-up newspaper to the top of the head. Once he was forced to roleplay he found out he liked it.
krrayn
Sep. 23rd, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
I have a different problem. An experienced gamer who is married with a kid who still makes a combat monster and still runs off to do his own thing. In his case however, I attribute it to simple impatience. He doesn't like to wait around for the rest of the group to debate their way to a decision, and once he gets a particular course of action in his head as the "right" thing to do (and by right I don't mean to imply any morality), he will go do it, and there's very little that will divert him. I've seen him go against a decision the entire rest of the party agreed to because he was convinced it was the wrong thing to do; he didn't bother to try to explain or defend his position, he just called in a favor for an air strike.

On the other hand, he does actually role play from time to time, and when the plot is something he cares about, he can be a great player in his pursuit of it; but if he's having an off day or you get under his skin for some reason, God help you.
jaegamer
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
That's my hope - that he'll find that he likes the story/character/team focused approach. If he doesn't... well... we'll deal with that when we have to. There are several resolution-oriented folks in the game, so it's not like he won't know. They're also some of the finest role players (and GMs) that I know.
mscjec
Sep. 23rd, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
My advice to "Loner Protagonist" (as I've seen quite a few):

First, relax. It's a night out with friends. They should relax, too. The first rule of gaming is not hit dice or imagination or whatever...the first rule is "Lucky you, you're with your friends!" Never forget that rule!

Having said that, we move on:

I have seen a few anti-hero Wolverine/grim/Clint Eastwood characters in my time. Why not have them? They are very popular. The trick is not to ignore that anti-hero for the greater good, but to gets ome great goodness from the interactions with that character type. It can work (example: Spike or Faith with the Buffy gang) and even in great numbers (ala The Magnificent Seven). But how?

Here's my take: It's easy. First, make sure the players know that you're an anti-hero (not villain...just not clean cut Boy Scout material). Assure the other players that you playing siad anti-hero is not going to be a selfish act and the character will generate interaction. This interaction need not be all buddy-buddy. It could be grudging respect, rivalry, tense mistrust, etc. However (and here's the key) everyone has to 'get it' (understand implicitly) that all those interactions are only for fun - not for selfish vindictive mean spiritedness.
In essence, the anti-hero player tacitly agrees to not screw up the 'stories' of the other characters nor the storyline of the Gamemaster. Anti-hero meddling should be not too frustrating for everyone. In return, the other 'hero' players should not mistrust the player, but they should mistrust the character WHEN it is fun for everyone to do so. That's the contract: don't REALLY hurt the heroes (at least without a GM cue) and the heroes won't abandon, imprison or kill the anti-hero!
This is a tough line to walk, but if you keep the 'Rule' in mind, you'll learn how to walk it and the resulting stories will be legend!
In essence, a anti-hero should be given the freedom to be a Dr. Smith/Faith/Wolverine type NOT in the desire for a player to act out any intemperate hostility but to provide a foil for the heroes and a great many story hooks for the GM.

So, talk a little with your group...be aware of the boundaries...and play it up.
jaegamer
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
My point exactly. I don't know the fellow well enough to know if he's even willing to make any of those concessions. His response (which focused on his "hundreds of hours" of play and that no one else has ever had a problem) wasn't encouraging. I'm sure that the GM will handle it well. I just liked my screed and wanted to put it somewhere I could find it. And, of course, validation is always nice!
idemandjustice
Sep. 23rd, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
All of it looks like it was really well said. And I'm someone who plays "solo" a lot (games where I'm the only player and my husband runs them). Of course, even those games, I still try to be considerate of my GM's enjoyment, not just my own.

I'd like to add on the whole "my guy would do that" thing, because it's such a pet peeve of mine. How often does anyone in real life face choices and feel there is only ONE possible course of action? Very rarely. Usually, we have several choices, weigh out pros and cons, maybe, and often second guess ourselves once we've made a decision. So why is it that in role-playing, people seem to think there is only one possible action that would be "in-character" for their character? That's just not very realistic. People who really, honestly think "my guy would do that" is justification and good role-playing need to realize they're actually being kind of narrow-minded, and they need to take a step back and look at things more carefully.
jaegamer
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Amen, sister!
varianor
Sep. 23rd, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Well written comments indeed. If you're the GM (it sounds like it) I would consider ending on a tried and true management "we" approach. I.e. saying something like "How can we get a good outcome for you?" Or "What can we do to find a way to work with the group and learn their style, if you want to continue?"
jaegamer
Sep. 23rd, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm not even a player (yet). I wasn't able to play this month, though I've made my character and am already worked into the background.

The woman who's running the game is very savvy though (and a fantastic GM). She teaches college freshmen, so she has *ways*.
litagemini
Sep. 24th, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you, you are too nice!

I'm the one running the game. Personally I think the player in question can be taught, but has had some let's say different types of examples in the past that altered his style to what we see now. But once he realizes it's possible to be heroic at any level... or at least, that is the feel that I want long-term.
jaegamer
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
A big part of my motivation was that I thought I saw a teachable moment (though from the reaction, I has me doots). I've got complete confidence in your ability to handle it.
litagemini
Sep. 24th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Given the mail I sent to him, he had two possible responses:

1. Hey, maybe you're right. I can't level up to level 60 in under a year so this game is moving much too slowly for me and will be totally uninteresting! I'll find another table.
2. What you say about the game has merit, and since gaming with you once was fun, I'll give it another shot.

His response was the second one.

Now from here he either accepts the group as-is or keeps trying to do it his way, but since I'm running the game and not changing the leveling pace (level 60? Is he serious? I mean... man... what?) there's not much harm he can do. If he admits after one, two more sessions that it still feels "slow" and not asskicking enough, he still knows where the door is. If he comes around and has fun, then good. Either way, it'll work out.
jodidiva
Sep. 23rd, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
I also have gotten very tired of the "Well, my PC is [insert name of undesireable background with trait here] and that's what they DO." Oh, really?

Well, maybe there's a reason that loners are alone.

I think your advice was very well done. I also would add, because we're such a rights-riddled society, that no one has a *right* to join or remain in a social group. And a game is a social group.
jaegamer
Sep. 24th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
Darned skippy! Of course, the club has to stay neutral. We're obligated to be open to all comers (unless they've formally violated our regs), and honestly, I think grownups need to do their own laundry.

I'm not worried about this group - the GM is fantastic and not at all passive/aggressive. I just thought I'd put some good thoughts together, and so I put it somewhere I might find it again later. Plus, the individual in question brushed it off with a "I'm not new, I have hundreds of hours of experience playing and GMing, and no one has had a problem before". I had a viceral "do you have any idea to WHOM you're speaking" reaction, so the validation from my Flist is very nice.

You, of course, are a fantastic problem-player manager, so your opinion means a lot. (grin)
wampameat
Sep. 30th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Heh. That reminds me of something I picked up from Sean or JD...

You are entitled to your outrage.
But that's all you are entitled to.

-VIC
( 17 comments )

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