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Farcaster
05-11-2007, 12:08 PM
Despite all my best efforts, sometimes I have this feeling that my game is just in a rut. In my minds-eye, I have crafted a delicately woven tale of deceit, treachery, and intrigue, but somehow it seems to loose something in the execution. I just can't get my players engaged in the roleplaying delicacies of my grand story, and I found myself wondering, how can I get my players more engaged in roleplaying.

Then, something occurred to me. Many of our best gaming sessions, the most enjoyable, are heavily laden with combat. Often on those days when I think that I've cheesed out on my preparation and compensated with combat, the players nonetheless respond very well. Here on our Player Registry, I added a field for "Playing Style," for players to indicate their preference from heavy roleplaying, light combat to heavy combat, lite roleplay, but I failed to ever ask my players this same basic question. Would it surprise you to know what their answer was when I finally wizened up and asked?

Two of the three players in my small group rate themselves as preferring "75% combat / 25% Roleplaying." (Actually, one of my players had put this in his profile on the forums, I just hadn't noticed it) The third player and I both enjoy a more balanced mix of roleplaying and combat. This is where I realized I was having a disconnect with the game.

In our case, at least we're not on totally opposite sides of the table,--if you'll forgive the pun--which is probably what has allowed our group to stay together for the last four or five years. Still, I want both myself and each of my players to walk away from every game satisfied with the experience. Now the question - how do you as a GM handle balancing players different playing styles? Is your strategy to adjust the mixture of strategic versus roleplay? How do you make roleplaying more fun for your combat-oriented players, and combat more enjoyable for your players that lean more towards roleplay?

Ed Zachary
05-11-2007, 12:24 PM
Role playing is great, but it needs to be based around something... like the combat that will occur on a mission, or a rivalry between the kingdoms of the players. Role playing often happens during combat, the two are not mutually exclusive.

As a DM I like to allow my players to gain a stake in the world, and they know that their actions and decisions will have far reaching effects.

Pure role playing (in town, or without a threat) can only take you so far, there has to be a dynamic coming from the players based on what they have survived, and what they want to accomplish. And good role playing often happens when the players' characters are under external threat.

dragonmamma
05-12-2007, 02:00 AM
As a non DMing gamer, I find the combat easier to roleplay than some actual non-combat roleplay because it feels like we have to guess what the DM needs us to do next or the game is off course...My current DM is new at the DMing and is good for her experience but in the past I have had games that, by subtle suggestions and situtation, the game felt "right" whatever choice we made...NOT like one of those "choose your own adventure stories" where you only can pick "goto page 26 if you want to storm the castle or go to page 32 if you want to run away" instead you can being impulsive and go to the neighboring wizards home for information. I think if the DM is flexible with the story enough and can be open about the encounters, then the players can all get the amount of roleplaying vs combat that they enjoy.

stealthygeek
05-12-2007, 06:56 AM
it feels like we have to guess what the DM needs us to do next or the game is off course...

Dragonmamma,
The course of the game should follow the path forged by the players not the GM. Don't worry about what the GM wants you to do to advance the story. If they're a good GM they'll know what to do or, if they're new to GMing, they'll learn what to do.

RPG's are best when fostering choice and creativity. Read and heed page one chapter one of your players handbook and DM guide.

Also, when you said, "...or the game is off course", is this your perspective as a player and your wont to run straight through the main plot. Or, does your GM fuss when your party strays from the main plot.
Your GM may be more than ready for the characters to take a path that is not directly linked to the main plot. A good GM puts more prep time into sub plots than the main one in anticipation of you guys doing something crazy. You might be letting your GM down by not taking the occasional "left hand turn".

Those times you wrote of that "felt right" sound like opportunities when you allowed to explore. Did that lead to more opportunities to roleplay? Roleplaying will foster creativity and open new exciting doors.

My GM rewards players xp for roleplaying. It's a great incentive to get into character. ;)

ronpyatt
05-12-2007, 10:06 PM
I've run and been in games that had no combat. They can be a blast!
But sometimes you just gotta tear out those blades and start hacking.

gdmcbride
05-13-2007, 01:44 AM
I think play style conflicts aren't usually about combat vs. role-playing. That's an awfully artificial distinction. Can't you role-play in a fight? Can't combat advance story?

Instead, really the players and GMs have to decide which they care about most:

1. Story
2. Genre
3. Competition

If you really want the story to be front in center with detailed backgrounds and intricately woven levels of intrigue, competitive tactical combat between PCs vs. NPCs (or even PC vs. PC) is just going to be frustrating. It's a distraction from what you really want.

If you are all about genre -- for example simulating Tolkienesque high fantasy, four color comic books or bad ass kung fu films -- any sort of background or fighing that doesn't support that is simply going to be a waste of time.

And, if you want to prove your meddle, long drawn out background is just wasted space. You want to get to the action!

Take for example something Ed said earlier...

Role playing is great, but it needs to be based around something... like the combat that will occur on a mission, or a rivalry between the kingdoms of the players. Role playing often happens during combat, the two are not mutually exclusive.


Ed is expressing frustration that there is not enough competition in a game. He wants story to serve competition, not visa versa. Is this a bad thing? I would say absolutely not. And the fact that Ed realizes what he wants means he can better communicate that to his GM or fellow players.

I think one of the real problems with discussions about RPGs is they tend to be laden with very value-heavy terms. Take "role-playing" for example. If you say -- I want a game with role-playing in it, few would disagree. These are role-playing games, after all. Of course there should be role-playing. "You want combat (i.e. roll-playing) to be front and center? Oh, well you must suck at role-playing." These kind of statements are very typical of these discussions and they are a distraction. Ed does not suck because Ed wants competition in his game.

Is one of these three priorities superior to the other? No, they are all valid forms of play. They can all be fun. I doubt anyone really wants one of those three priorities to always be emphasized. Developing a non-judgmental language and actually talking is the way to make actual play better.

Just some thoughts.

Gary

Ed Zachary
05-13-2007, 01:01 PM
Ed does not suck because Ed wants competition in his game.

Thanks Gary, I think...

Farcaster
05-13-2007, 02:21 PM
Ed does not suck because Ed wants competition in his game.

So, what you're saying is that Ed sucks for a variety of other reasons, just not that one...

:D

Ed Zachary
05-13-2007, 03:23 PM
Exactly...

gdmcbride
05-14-2007, 01:26 AM
So, what you're saying is that Ed sucks for a variety of other reasons, just not that one...

:D

Actually I'm saying that Ed may suck, but not because of that. I leave it to other wise heads to judge his overall suckitude.

And to try desperately to get this conversation back to something substantive I also notice that Farcaster mentions dissatisfaction with a game because the players don't have buy-in to his story. That reveals to me a problem of priorities between GM and player. The Players want action, violence, victory -- in a word 'competition'. The GM wants "a delicately woven tale of deceit, treachery, and intrigue".

What is to be done? Fundamentally the GM has four option:

1. Do Nothing
2. Quit the Game
2. Change the Player's Priorities
3. Change his Focus

Option 1 and 2 are beyond the scope of this discussion and ultimately don't deal with the problem. Option 3 is a difficult task even under the best of circumstances. Game styles are matters of personal preference. Option 3 is very similar to convincing someone who loves mint chocolate chip ice cream to instead love rocky road. The only way to try is to let them sample another flavor and even that will often fail as they return to the old favorite.

The only real option is four -- change himself, the only real thing he can really effect. If all of your best sessions are combat driven, make your story serve those goals.

Why should the PCs care about your story? Because it helps them in combat. Say your PCs are going to fight Death Mummies. You want to introduce a back story about how the Death Mummies were once ancient kings who ruled the land who went mad because they fell into the worship of dark gods. Make sure the Death Mummies back story reveals a fatal weakness that makes the well-nigh invincible Death Mummies defeatable. Story supports combat. Once the players catch on that listening to the story helps them be bad-asses they have real incentive to start paying attention.

Again just some thoughts.

Gary

Ed Zachary
05-14-2007, 04:43 AM
Despite all my best efforts, sometimes I have this feeling that my game is just in a rut. In my minds-eye, I have crafted a delicately woven tale of deceit, treachery, and intrigue, but somehow it seems to loose something in the execution. I just can't get my players engaged in the roleplaying delicacies of my grand story, and I found myself wondering, how can I get my players more engaged in roleplaying.

I am not trying to be critical, but a few word here caught my eye.

"I have crafted a delicately woven tale..."

"I just can't get my players engaged in the roleplaying delicacies of my grand story"

I have never heard any of the details of any of your games, and as far as I know none of your players post here. Previously you mentioned something else that I found different... that your players have never seen their character sheets, that you control and modify them.

When I role play, I usually play to my strengths, but some of the most entertaining moments happen when I deliberately play to my weaknesses. Perhaps if your players had their character sheets in hand, that their role playing and interest would improve.

You also mentioned "your grand story" that "you wove". That left me wondering how much influence and control you've allowed your players take in the direction of the campaign, and their characters take in influencing the world around them.

And one last thing... are you the sole DM? Would you ever consider allowing one of the other players to DM every once in a while, placing new characters in a different part of the campaign world?

Kilrex
05-14-2007, 06:59 AM
And one last thing... are you the sole DM? Would you ever consider allowing one of the other players to DM every once in a while, placing new characters in a different part of the campaign world?

The last campaign in which I had the chance to play was set a Birthright style world. For three weekends the the reg DM was in charge. On the fourth week of the month the DM would change to one of the chars in the group. The temp DM would manufacture some Arch villains and craft a mini adventure with pre-made characters. This temp adventure was a way for that player to add intrigue into the existing plot or set up further adventure for the party. When I asked the DM why he did that, he said it was a chance to see the different styles each of us had for playing. Looking back I noticed that each of us set up encounters or a story comparable to our play styles.

Moritz
05-14-2007, 08:05 AM
Not sure if this fits, but I stopped using the Champions/Hero system because of ROLL-Players and took up the Marvel Super Heroes RPG (Classic) system to help facilitate ROLE-Playing.

It was a remarkable shift of gears because no longer does it take 3 hours real time to run a 30 second game time combat. And, it allows more 'story' time.

Farcaster
05-14-2007, 11:27 AM
Farcaster mentions dissatisfaction with a game because the players don't have buy-in to his story. That reveals to me a problem of priorities between GM and player... The only real option is four -- change himself, the only real thing he can really effect.

I wouldn't say that the players don't have buy-in to the story. They do enjoy it. The disconnect is that two out of three don't enjoy the roleplaying/diplomatic aspects of the game as much. As far as I know, they do like the story behind the campaign.

The problem isn't that all the players enjoy mostly combat driven games, it is that two of us enjoy a more balanced ratio of combat to roleplay and the other half of the group enjoys the strategic, combat driven aspect. Just saying, "Buck up, soldier, and suck it up," isn't going to work. My goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves at the game, myself included. So, what I'm wondering about is how other GMs balance these disparate tastes.

I also must disagree that each player's preference for the amount of combat versus roleplaying in a game is an "artificial distinction." D&D can be boiled down to just playing out "Miniatures" scenarios if you wanted to (100% combat/Virtually no Roleplay) or it could be taken to the other extreme with 100% roleplay/Virtually no Combat. Some people like those. I'm not much into either. This is definitely a difference in player preference.




I have never heard any of the details of any of your games, and as far as I know none of your players post here. Previously you mentioned something else that I found different... that your players have never seen their character sheets, that you control and modify them.

That was something that we used to do in 2nd edition. With all the complexity of characters and their options as they are today, we do not use that system any more. The only thing that they don't know for sure is what their exact hitpoints are. (And by the by, they do visit these forums, they just don't usually post in the public sections of the boards) ;)


You also mentioned "your grand story" that "you wove". That left me wondering how much influence and control you've allowed your players take in the direction of the campaign, and their characters take in influencing the world around them.

The decisions and actions the players make can have huge impacts on the direction of the game. However, there are events in the story that are unfolding as time marches on. How those events unfold and how bad it is for their side (of the war) depends on what they've done in the game so far.


And one last thing... are you the sole DM? Would you ever consider allowing one of the other players to DM every once in a while, placing new characters in a different part of the campaign world?

Yes, I am the only DM, and the players like it that way. None of them are terribly interested in running a game. However, even if they were, I'd be more apt to switch off games with them and rotate--allow them to tell their own story without being confined to what's going on in my world.

Moritz
05-14-2007, 05:03 PM
Oh, PS:

If my players don't jump into the story I'm telling, I make sure it bites them in the ass during the combat session.

IE: Gary's Death Mummies. - If the players didn't RP talking to the constable and eventually pick up the Eye of Osiris - the only thing that could defeat the mummies, then they're SoL and will discover this during the combat sequence where they get their stuff handed to them. So, then they're forced to go back and talk to the constable to get the Eye and have to do the battle all over again.

-but I'm just mean like that.

NikoONeil
05-17-2007, 03:09 AM
Yes he is, for instance making the palladin go through the city of the dead without killing anything.

Moritz
05-17-2007, 08:29 AM
Yes he is, for instance making the palladin go through the city of the dead without killing anything.

I loved that. But you totally had free will to kill anything you wanted. There would have been retribution however, like the whole city coming after the party. Now that would have sucked. But oh so much fun.

Good to see you commenting on this thing Neil.

-Moritz

shilar
07-16-2007, 11:56 PM
When I DM I usually try to find out the styles my players favor. Now in any given group this will most likely vary. I write stories that play to each players class strengths and style preference. So that means that one adventure might be hack and slash. The next could be a tale of harrowing escape. Great for the players who like a mix. And when they get to town they try to find out who set them up. Which takes a lot of investigation and role playing. Each person(me too) may not like every adventure, but they all find something they enjoy. This works really well for me as long as I don't have any Deva players that think they need to be the focus of every scene.

Moritz
07-17-2007, 08:07 AM
Deva players that think they need to be the focus of every scene.

Hey Niko, we don't know anyone like this, do we?

Argent
07-22-2007, 01:35 PM
In the early days of D&D (pre-AD&D), hacknslash was role-playing. That changed with AD&D and kept changing through to today with 3.5. And I have loved every bit of it. I like a little combat in my role-playing and I like a little role-playing in my combat. And some nights I just want to see how far I can launch a goblin's head with one kick. It is all good!

As a DM, I try to put together a loose structure to hang the story on, and then let the players fill in the blanks. I do this because I am, a) busy, and b) the players will tend to let slip the things that interest them as we play. And then I add some twists, bring to a boil, and serve with a garnish. ;)

Farcaster
07-23-2007, 05:29 PM
In the early days of D&D (pre-AD&D), hacknslash was role-playing. That changed with AD&D and kept changing through to today with 3.5.


But doesn't it seem to you that 3.5 focuses more on hack and slash than 2nd edition did? Don't get me wrong, I like 3rd edition, but it does often feel like it has lost some of the magic and become more mechanical. In many ways, to me, 3rd edition seems to support roleplaying less and less. In large part this is because just about any roleplaying opportunity can be boiled down to a series of appraise, diplomacy, bluff, or sense motive checks. Heck, in 2nd edition, skills (proficiencies) were still optional rules!

Moritz
07-23-2007, 06:16 PM
In large part this is because just about any roleplaying opportunity can be boiled down to a series of appraise, diplomacy, bluff, or sense motive checks. Heck, in 2nd edition, skills (proficiencies) were still optional rules!

I've had a player or two say things like, "I'll roll my diplomacy check." instead of actually role-playing out the conversation. Stuff like that annoys me. Even though the player may not have the capability of stringing 3 sentences together, at least they can try and get some sibilance of an idea across in an attempt to role-play.

Argent
07-24-2007, 07:25 AM
But doesn't it seem to you that 3.5 focuses more on hack and slash than 2nd edition did? Don't get me wrong, I like 3rd edition, but it does often feel like it has lost some of the magic and become more mechanical. In many ways, to me, 3rd edition seems to support roleplaying less and less. In large part this is because just about any roleplaying opportunity can be boiled down to a series of appraise, diplomacy, bluff, or sense motive checks. Heck, in 2nd edition, skills (proficiencies) were still optional rules!

True. And in 1st edition they weren't even there, there was no in-game mechanic for them. But the fact that those skills checks are allowed means more of a focus on allowing their use, ie more role-playing opportunities. And yes, you could simply boil those moments down to a die-roll and then move on. But that is where the DM earns his keep; making those moments real role-playing moments and not just mechanical.

And I agree that the 3.5 rules certainly have a lot more detail in their combat system (what with the feats, actions, skills, etc) than other editions of D&D. But again, it is up to the DM and players as to how much of that gets used (abused) in their game. And even combat can have role-playing in it.

When I say that the trend nowadays is towards more role-playing, I meant more that adventure modules trend that way. If you put an old 1st edition module next to a current one, you are going to see a lot more in the way of role-playing vs. combat encounters. Granted the combat encounters these days are generally more complex. And the exception to this would be the mods by Goodman Games, which are great little adventures by the way.

Moritz
07-24-2007, 09:41 AM
I've often had to say, "Let's remember boys and girls, This is Role-Playing, not Roll-Playing." If they wanna just roll dice, let them play Yahtzee or Farkle.

shilar
07-24-2007, 11:33 AM
I've had parties actually debate roll-playing vs. role-playing. As both are used as valid descriptions of our hobby. It's a great little thing to do between quests. You can learn a lot about player preferences by doing it. Some games lean one way or the other but I think D&D lands squarely in the middle. If you aren't good at role-playing there are mechanics to help you out. If all of your dice are cursed than there are ways to avoid roll-playing. I always make my players try to role-play but if they cant, roll it baby. One thing I think a lot of us forget is that player vs character knowledge goes both ways. Just as a player often has knowledge that a character can not. A character often has skills that a player does not(i.e. track, spellcraft, knowledge skills and diplomacy). The reason those skills exist is so that characters that are not international diplomats can play one. If the player wants to try let them, just remember that the character has those skills not the player.

Ed Zachary
07-24-2007, 03:46 PM
Dice need to be rolled for randomization, to determine the result of a non-roleplayable skill.

Such as hitting in combat, damage done, the result of search or disarm device, or in-character knowledge.

Anything beyond that is a waste and should be role played out (like diplomacy).

Argent
07-24-2007, 07:23 PM
Dice need to be rolled for randomization, to determine the result of a non-roleplayable skill.

Such as hitting in combat, damage done, the result of search or disarm device, or in-character knowledge.

Anything beyond that is a waste and should be role played out (like diplomacy).

I would tend to agree. Most of the time I will simply role-play social encounters, and the result will be pretty obvious to all concerned. The only time I introduce the skill check to the situation is when there is a dispute over how the diplomacy/bluff/sense motive is going. Then I randomize it for fairness.

Ed Zachary
07-24-2007, 11:01 PM
I just got a PM from the Half Orc Barbarian in my game, complaining that his Intimidate is low because of his low Charisma. So instead of making a roll, he role played it. He looks plenty intimidating to me, moseso than a girlyman elf with a high charisma.

Argent
07-25-2007, 07:49 AM
That has always been one of those things that bugged me, that Intimidate was Charisma based. So the Gnome Bard with the 18 Charisma is more intimidating than the Half-orc Barbarian with a bad attitude and BO +4?

So I changed it. Mostly it is a role-playing situation, but if it comes down to a roll I use the bonus from whatever attribute is most appropriate at the time (Str for fighter/barbarians, Cha for bards/rogues, etc).

starfalconkd
07-25-2007, 09:28 AM
That has always been one of those things that bugged me, that Intimidate was Charisma based. So the Gnome Bard with the 18 Charisma is more intimidating than the Half-orc Barbarian with a bad attitude and BO +4?

So I changed it. Mostly it is a role-playing situation, but if it comes down to a roll I use the bonus from whatever attribute is most appropriate at the time (Str for fighter/barbarians, Cha for bards/rogues, etc).

Think about it though, which is scarier:
a) "I'm gonna break your knee caps."
b) "It really would be a shame if someone cut up your daughter's pretty face."

Ed Zachary
07-25-2007, 11:00 AM
Think about it though, which is scarier:
a) "I'm gonna break your knee caps."
b) "It really would be a shame if someone cut up your daughter's pretty face."

Depends who you are asking... a soccer mom in American suburbia, or an enemy fighter you're trying to get information from.

Farcaster
07-25-2007, 11:59 AM
Anything beyond that is a waste and should be role played out (like diplomacy).

Now, I'm not ready to go completely on the other side and get rid of the skills like this. As has been mentioned, sometimes a character's skill at diplomacy, bluffing, sense motive or whatever may be far less are far more advanced than the player's. A barbarian from the untamed wilds who speaks eloquently and with decorum befitting one of noble birth is just as unrealistic as a highly skilled bard or diplomat who couldn't convince a beggar to take a coin. Skills like diplomacy give you some measure of how good or bad the character should be in these situations.

In my games, I allow a skill like diplomacy to be used in multiple different ways. A well rolled diplomacy check might provide a clue to a PC as to what might be the most effective argument would be given the NPCs apparent motivations. This represents the character's ability to read someone. I may also use it to adjust the NPCs attitude for the purposes of considering the player's argument, allowing the NPC to take what the player said in a more or less favorable light to represent how well the character actually delivered the message. And we also use the skill as a gauge to determine how the character should be roleplayed. If the character has no proficiency in diplomacy, then that should be reflected in how the character talks.

Ed Zachary
07-25-2007, 12:11 PM
A brute like a Half Orc Barbarian should be able to put his Strength into his Intimidation rather than Charisma.

A devious Wizard should be able to put his Intelligence into making a clever Intimidation ploy.

shilar
07-25-2007, 02:17 PM
I have to agree with Ed. Different classes intimidate differently.There are a lot of ways to scare people. Sometimes its violent, sometimes descriptive, and sometimes cruel. I had a female halfling rouge who was a real flirt. She also liked to sneak attack the soft parts of over amorous NPCs. all I ever had to do was say something like, "so did you hear about (insert name here) I did it to him." Most males just gave me what I wanted.