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Valdar
05-15-2008, 11:12 AM
A discussion of roll vs. role started up in the House Rules thread, and I'd love to join in, but it's a little off-topic there, so I'm starting a new thread for it. Let me know if that's not the suggested MO around here-

Got to thinking about this after reading an article about theories of story as applied to screenwriting could be modified for video games:

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20050727/sutherland_01.shtml

It would be interesting to see a similar article about how story principles apply to role-playing games. This is probably a more general discussion than D&D, but I think D&D is one of the biggest culprits for needing more story.

The core elements of a story seem to map to the game table as:

Plot = what the DM does
Setting = what the big stack of books do
Character = what the players do

Or, more simply, the synopsis of any D&D story is:

"The PCs defeat the ______ because they are more _____ than them."

where the DM fills in the first blank, and the players fill in the second. The more interesting the blank-filling, the more interesting the story.

The conclusion I'm reaching is that the less work the players do in filling in that second blank, the worse the story will be, no matter how hard the DM works to fill in the first.

Webhead
05-15-2008, 12:55 PM
The conclusion I'm reaching is that the less work the players do in filling in that second blank, the worse the story will be, no matter how hard the DM works to fill in the first.


Of course, this is always the risk/reward of collaborative story-telling efforts like RPGs. Since it is ultimately the result of multiple contributors, if one of those contributors doesn't grok to things or just doesn't want to put the effort, the end product can suffer. On the other hand, if all involved parties are excited and interested in the process, you tend to end up with something really cool.

Great rewards take great risk.

My 2 cents.

cplmac
05-15-2008, 08:23 PM
It seems to come down to three basic types of games. The ones who prefer all combat, those that prefer all role play, and the people who like some combination of the first two. One style is not better than the other, although some will argue differently. Basically it just comes down to what style you prefer to play.

Dimthar
05-15-2008, 09:05 PM
It seems to come down to three basic types of games. The ones who prefer all combat, those that prefer all role play, and the people who like some combination of the first two. One style is not better than the other, although some will argue differently. Basically it just comes down to what style you prefer to play.

Now, I imagine we need to agree on what is a STORY (For the purpose of the thread). In a pure sense, PCs will create a "Story" regardless of how much combat or role-play is involved.

If what you mean by Story is a well defined plot with PCs who create strong relationships with their world and have short, middle and long term goals/agendas. And when they look back it is as if their characters were the product of a literature artist, then yes, I agree you need a group of players who are strong in role-playing.

Now just because you have "Roleplayers" that doesn't mean you will automatically achieve the above. That's where the DM comes into play as the major contributor to the "Novel".

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tesral
05-16-2008, 03:13 AM
Not combat, not role-playing, conflict.

In the story the author sets up a conflict or several. They then entertain you by having the character in the book or film solve the conflict.

In an RPG the Gamemaster sets up the conflict, or several. Then the players solve the conflicts to the amusement of all.

Conflict. Combat and role-playing are tools of conflict resolution. A conflict can be a band of marauding Orcs, a balky Noble at the court that will not give you access to the King, or a chasm that must be crossed.

All are conflicts. How you solve them can involve combat or something else entirely. The chasm is going to be unimpressed at sword play.

Each encounter is a conflict in your greater story. The story might be a one conflict deal. The GM can also weave more complex constructions. However the basis is the conflict that the PCs must resolve with the tools they have to hand, be that swords spells or gentle words. Sometimes cutting down the right tree can work wonders.

clint
05-16-2008, 12:08 PM
A lot of it comes down to the people involved and what everyone there wants from playing D&D, but I generally dislike it when D&D is run as a fantasy novel simulator, but I do like it when it's a nice collection of related episodes and vignettes the characters are in. The episodes can link together. Especially as a DM, I feel D&D as a "novel" is just too heavy of a structure for any of the groups I've ever been involved with.

How Tesral put it is generally how I look at it or at least try to. Most my group just isn't into roleplaying for the sake of playing their characters or story for the sake of story. I tend to skip non-conflict scenes. If I'm making my players order breakfast in character, they know that something is up and this usually gets the non-active role-players to pay attention at least. If they're paying attention I can get them involved in the scene once in a while and contribute to that story part.

Valdar
05-16-2008, 12:13 PM
Since it is ultimately the result of multiple contributors, if one of those contributors doesn't grok to things or just doesn't want to put the effort, the end product can suffer. On the other hand, if all involved parties are excited and interested in the process, you tend to end up with something really cool.


Very true. In the past, I've had a very hard time getting players to step up and add their part to the "character" corner of the story triangle, even if they want more story in the game. What things have you all seen or done in the past that's worked to encourage players to play their characters? The standard response is "more xp", but I've never found that to do anything except piss off the non-RPers, since roleplaying xp is so subjective.

tesral
05-16-2008, 12:25 PM
Very true. In the past, I've had a very hard time getting players to step up and add their part to the "character" corner of the story triangle, even if they want more story in the game. What things have you all seen or done in the past that's worked to encourage players to play their characters? The standard response is "more xp", but I've never found that to do anything except piss off the non-RPers, since roleplaying xp is so subjective.

You can't force it. Play with the role-players and see that the the non role-players have something to do.

By handing out awards as I do no single perosn benifits more than the rest. A great bit of roleplaying by one is awarded to all.

Oh that precent of a level table is on my web site. DMG 1: Experience Tables (http://phoenixinn.iwarp.com/fantasy/fantpdf/XP_table.pdf)

Valdar
05-16-2008, 02:28 PM
If what you mean by Story is a well defined plot with PCs who create strong relationships with their world and have short, middle and long term goals/agendas. And when they look back it is as if their characters were the product of a literature artist, then yes, I agree you need a group of players who are strong in role-playing.
.
That's a lot more than I would expect, actually. Right now I just want the characters to have personality traits and other unique bits that can be used to drive and flavor the adventures, so that I don't show up to the game with an essentially complete adventure that has a slot that says "insert generic protagonists here"...

Malruhn
05-16-2008, 08:28 PM
I've found that when I am fully prepared - and have plots, subplots and contingencies set for everything the players will end up pulling, the playing ends up a whole lot like a "Which-Way" book (i.e.: You come to a fork in the road, If you go right, turn to entry 33, if you turn left, turn to 122).

It sucked for all involved.

I found that my adventures have always worked out best for all involved when I have all the BACKGROUND stuff done - like the Baron's motivations and the skeletons in his closet, but leave all the main stuff alone.

If the players don't get involved, eventually the Baron will assassinate the Crown Prince - or they can screw up that plan in any number of ways - whether they know it or not.

My players and I have all agreed that when I have the background set and pull the rest out of my fourth-point-of-contact, all of us have a wonderful time.

I've stopped being over-prepared. It's easier on all of us.
__________________

Now, to add to the OP, I like a gaming session to be like a fantasy movie. I want the players to take chances - and I want to see fear in their eyes when a possibly mortal blow falls in their midst. I like to see the game as a story - and I do agree that it is mutual in who has to offer their input to make it a success.

cplmac
05-16-2008, 08:56 PM
Not combat, not role-playing, conflict.

In the story the author sets up a conflict or several. They then entertain you by having the character in the book or film solve the conflict.

In an RPG the Gamemaster sets up the conflict, or several. Then the players solve the conflicts to the amusement of all.

Conflict. Combat and role-playing are tools of conflict resolution. A conflict can be a band of marauding Orcs, a balky Noble at the court that will not give you access to the King, or a chasm that must be crossed.

All are conflicts. How you solve them can involve combat or something else entirely. The chasm is going to be unimpressed at sword play.

Each encounter is a conflict in your greater story. The story might be a one conflict deal. The GM can also weave more complex constructions. However the basis is the conflict that the PCs must resolve with the tools they have to hand, be that swords spells or gentle words. Sometimes cutting down the right tree can work wonders.


I agree completely. Just make sure that you don't become predictable. Got to change things up to keep the players entertained.

Maelstrom
05-17-2008, 05:52 AM
I've stopped being over-prepared. It's easier on all of us.


Very well put, and exactly my experience.

Rather than reading a story, you as a DM roleplay. You specify the interesting quirks, memorable characteristics, and personality of each NPC the players may meet, and then roleplay them accordingly.

I am a fan of difficult to solve challenges as well. Come up with an environmental situation without a resolution in mind, and let the players figure it out, only giving them a hint if they really seem stuck and aren't having fun.

For example, I like pits and chasms. One was a circular hole 50 feet in diameter in the players path through a dungeon. It was a volcanic shaft that went as deep as they could see and upwards to open sky several hundred feet above.

What they don't know is that there is a network of webs across the shaft 150 feet below, so that if somehow one of them falls, it wouldn't necessarily be fatal. The webs were crawling with large spiders. And soon after the players attempted whatever crossing method they came up with, stirges would fly in and attack, adding a twist.

This is the kind of thing that can make hack-and-slashers creative.

Valdar
05-17-2008, 12:16 PM
Rather than reading a story, you as a DM roleplay. You specify the interesting quirks, memorable characteristics, and personality of each NPC the players may meet, and then roleplay them accordingly.


I will have to suppress my natural instincts and try this sometime. It will be easier to come up with difficult situations (and safety nets, whether literal or figurative) than anticipating the party's every move...

agoraderek
05-17-2008, 03:58 PM
i ran a long lasting game in the early 90's that had many memorable episodes and adventures, but my players had the most fun just palying the "down time" moments.

one of my players was hyper-excited that a town they were spending some time in was having their monthly "market day". he planned all the things he wanted to do and buy, and woke up in the morning, threw open the wooden window of his room at the inn with a hearty cry of "it's market day!!!". that was the only moment of joy he had that day, which ended up with him in the town stocks on an assault charge...

the entire day was an unmitigated disaster (not by any design on my part, btw).

this game was 15 years ago, yet he sent me an e-mail the other day that said simply "its market day... :(". (he was having a bad day and wanted me to call).

even the most mundane elements of a game can wind up being the most memorable. so, sometimes, it is a good idea not to just skip the middle stuff to get to the "good bits".

Valdar
05-18-2008, 11:41 AM
this game was 15 years ago, yet he sent me an e-mail the other day that said simply "its market day... :(". (he was having a bad day and wanted me to call).


That is awesome...

cplmac
05-18-2008, 08:51 PM
even the most mundane elements of a game can wind up being the most memorable. so, sometimes, it is a good idea not to just skip the middle stuff to get to the "good bits".


Ever think that maybe there isn't such a thing as a mundane part to the game?

agoraderek
05-18-2008, 09:32 PM
Ever think that maybe there isn't such a thing as a mundane part to the game?

kinda the point i was trying to make ;)

tesral
05-18-2008, 11:43 PM
Ever think that maybe there isn't such a thing as a mundane part to the game?

We skip the mundane parts. When is the last time you had a character looking for a bathroom? So unless the GM enforces dealing with "mundane" elements anything the players want to deal with can be taken as the interesting parts.

cplmac
05-19-2008, 09:52 AM
We skip the mundane parts. When is the last time you had a character looking for a bathroom? So unless the GM enforces dealing with "mundane" elements anything the players want to deal with can be taken as the interesting parts.


Once again, I must admit my novice status compared to tesral. I did not take into consideration the use of bathroom facilities. Although, out in the wilderness or in some cave, I don't think they would find one.

I was thinking more on the lines of obtaining food and water. Also, for PC's that have henchmen and/or holdings (like a fort or castle), they need to make sure they are paying wages and keeping up on repairs. Just part of the responsibilities of being higher status and having such luxuries.

tesral
05-19-2008, 10:23 AM
I was thinking more on the lines of obtaining food and water. Also, for PC's that have henchmen and/or holdings (like a fort or castle), they need to make sure they are paying wages and keeping up on repairs. Just part of the responsibilities of being higher status and having such luxuries.

I have never seen a game that seriously dealt with M'Lord's daily paperwork. Again it's mundane and boring. Usually when such matters comes up in my game it is assumed that if the PCs have an income from land, and henchman and hirelings that must be paid the two balance out. It saves bookkeeping for me and the players. I have also yet to have a player that wanted to keep track of that income and tried to make a profit off it.

cplmac
05-19-2008, 10:42 AM
I only had this happen once. A party recieved a castle as part of their reward for rescuing the Prince in the campaign "Destiny of Kings." Since they were all of 6th level or less, and did not have alot of extra money or gems to use for the upkeep, I actually had to keep track of what they had left for awhile. We were able to keep going after the original conflict had been dealt with. Fortunately for the party, they were able to collect enough rewards from the next three campaigns that money became no problem.

I will admit that in order to keep the gaming sessions from being totally just dealing with the castle upkeep, the group agreed to let me figure out the expenses inbetween actual gaming sessions. This way they could enjoy being able to campaign and still not worry about the castle upkeep. Also to make it easy on myself too, I did the castle "paperwork" on a monthy basis, as opposed to a daily basis. This way I didn't have to do alot of figuring after each game session.

boulet
05-19-2008, 10:42 AM
Well the status of mundane activities evolves with time too.

Let me illustrate with an example. When I start a campaign of Vampires with players who are new to this RPG, I don't assume that feeding is mundane. I want them to roleplay the hunt. They go through the whole role play of seducing or forcing a victim into offering her jugular. This way they get to understand their vampiric abilities better and get a feel of the hunger and the beast that drive them. Later in the story if I was to ask for roleplaying every single hunt it would become annoying. So assuming the PCs know the area where they are and they already proved they're skilled at feeding themselves, this can be dealt with a couple of dice rolling just for the sake of estimating how long it takes. But even experienced PCs who usually know how to get blood may be asked to go into the detail of roleplaying the hunt when the tension is right. Say they escaped a difficult confrontation and are chased across town by fanatic foes armed with flame throwers...

To me, mundane is when it really doesn't bring nothing to the story. If asking where the bathroom is was a cultural issue in one specific setting, then it's not mundane anymore and could lead to NPCs getting embarrassed. It could be the opportunity for comedy type of role play at the table, and many times players enjoy it because of the sheer contrast with more tense moments of the game. Obviously bathroom incidents shouldn't mobilize more than a few minutes of game time. The shortest jokes are usually the best.

cplmac
05-19-2008, 10:49 AM
To me, mundane is when it really doesn't bring nothing to the story. If asking where the bathroom is was a cultural issue in one specific setting, then it's not mundane anymore and could lead to NPCs getting embarrassed. It could be the opportunity for comedy type of role play at the table, and many times players enjoy it because of the sheer contrast with more tense moments of the game. Obviously bathroom incidents shouldn't mobilize more than a few minutes of game time. The shortest jokes are usually the best.


Like the toilet paper thing on Sinefeld.

tesral
05-19-2008, 10:56 AM
There you have it, "mundane" is the things that do not add to the game's enjoyment. There are always exceptions to the standard mundane things, like bathroom breaks, or castle upkeep, but for the most part we ignore the parts of daily life that we all must do,and are not really any fun.

Uberman: "Stand back people, I have to balance my checkbook. This, could get ugly."

That doesn't happen very often.

clint
05-20-2008, 01:01 PM
Mundane is whatever nobody is interested in.

If I'm giving the basics of the inn and common area and a player asks "what's for dinner" or "are the serving wenches hot", we'll go there and amuse ourselves for a couple of minutes, but if no one seems interested in mucking around, then I'll gloss over it, they've got their food, beverage, and table without any fuss and I'll move onto whatever interesting thing I wanted to introduce. Basically, as soon as someone cares it's no longer mundane.

Maelstrom
05-21-2008, 04:53 AM
That's a pretty good approach, Clint.

I like to randomly spend a little time on something mundane just to keep the players on their toes. If we only focused on things important the story line, the players would be suspicious, thinking every situation is either a way to advance the plot, or some kind of trap or trick.

boulet
05-21-2008, 07:04 AM
If we only focused on things important the story line, the players would be suspicious, thinking every situation is either a way to advance the plot, or some kind of trap or trick.

Ditto !

Valdar
05-21-2008, 10:17 AM
That's a pretty good approach, Clint.

I like to randomly spend a little time on something mundane just to keep the players on their toes. If we only focused on things important the story line, the players would be suspicious, thinking every situation is either a way to advance the plot, or some kind of trap or trick.

Good plan. There was an old comic called RPGWorld in which the hero systematically talks to everyone in town, on the theory that if they weren't part of the story, they wouldn't be there.

It helps when the DM does things non-metagame, so that the players will follow along.

Dimthar
05-21-2008, 01:00 PM
I like to randomly spend a little time on something mundane just to keep the players on their toes. If we only focused on things important the story line, the players would be suspicious, thinking every situation is either a way to advance the plot, or some kind of trap or trick.

My Bard used to spend some time at the "Tailor" just to make it clear that when possible he was always well dressed. DM didn't mind. One year later Maesse Gucci (My Tailor) was found murdered, of course I avenged his death, his apprentice Gabbana took over the business after that. :)

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