Citizens of the Imperium

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robject August 10th, 2018 09:13 PM

I'm Not A Good Player!
 
Most of the time, when we played RPGs, it was Traveller, and I was the referee.

The three notable exceptions was one Runequest campaign, where I was a player, and a couple of recent Traveller games run by Stan Shinn. Now, I am a player in a very occasional Star Wars campaign.

And in all cases, I realized that I stink as a player.

I have little to no imagination. I can't decide what my player should do. I go with the flow. I don't think ahead. I don't naturally go into puzzle-solving mode. With Stan's Traveller game, I had encyclopedic knowledge of the setting (generally, and compared with the others) but couldn't do anything useful with that knowledge.

It's frustrating, because the whole drive since 1994 was to play Traveller... then when I get a chance, I seem to fizzle.

I'm not (really) bummed about it. This is simply an observation, and a realization that in order to play a game well, I need to re-learn what it is I like about the game, and to see it from a player's perspective.

I suspect that that perspective will also make me a better referee.

Leitz August 10th, 2018 10:13 PM

My personal take, and I stink as a generic player, is that the story is what I want. In games where I roll dice, shoot, fly the ship or whatever...well...whatever. In games where I can take my time and describe stuff, and plan long term, I thrive.

I was asked to leave a game on rpg.net once because I was playing a SWN merchant and setting up for a major business transaction based on exploration. Seems they wanted to dungeon crawl in space that that's about it. A good dungeon crawl isn't bad now and again, but merchants try to make money.

So, maybe you don't stink as a player, you're just not a generic player. What sort of play style do you dream of?

Enoki August 10th, 2018 10:28 PM

Take heart. When I'm a player all-too-often I'll have my character decide to do something completely unanticipated by the referee. That is, the ref is expecting me to do A or B, but I choose X instead.
Usually, it's a reasonable choice, even a technical and logical one. But, it also completely derails the scenario.

My solution to that is to choose to play what would be called "support" characters. That way when things go south or there are choices to be made I can leave the primary decision making to other players. My input can be limited to something like "I think that's a baaaad idea..." and to providing technical or other necessary support roles to the group like being the technician / engineer, merchant in a group of non-merchants, the medic, or such.

robject August 10th, 2018 10:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leitz
So, maybe you don't stink as a player, you're just not a generic player. What sort of play style do you dream of?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Enoki (Post 590865)
... the ref is expecting me to do A or B, but I choose X instead. ...

My solution to that is to choose to play what would be called "support" characters. That way when things go south or there are choices to be made I can leave the primary decision making to other players.

I find myself in Enoki's position: by dint of me always being referee, my friends don't get a lot of experience in refereeing, so WHEN they script careful storylines I find I have to read their minds and play within the story. Or else let others take the lead and play support. So there is that.

But Leitz hits on another point: when you referee, you have to find out what your players like, so that they can have some fun some of the time. Similarly, as a player you have to know yourself. Frankly I haven't thought about being a Traveller player for umpteen years -- not since the first couple years I guess.

SO I have to go back to 1994 and recall what I wanted to do in Traveller.

The downside is: I never thought of playing in Star Wars. As a result, I don't have any drive to do things in the Star Wars universe. So when my friend asks me what I want to do, I draw a blank. And I have to figure something out.

BlackBat242 August 11th, 2018 12:05 AM

One cure is to read. A lot.

And to read stories, not in-depth character examinations masquerading as novels.

Go back to the 1950s & 60s (and 70s), and read Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak, Poul Anderson, Bertram Chandler, etc - books that are about telling the story first, and about the adventure of it all second - with introspection & pschyoanalytics nearly nonexistent.

Heck, Lois Bujold & Anne McCaffery (her sci-fi stuff) would do well also.

Just expose yourself to a lot of stories about adventure in space, and which deal with a wide variety of professions and backgrounds.


And remember: "He who hesitates is lost", and "It is better to make a wrong decision and act on it than to make no decision at all." Don't worry about having your character do the "correct" thing - just have him/her do something!

Major B August 11th, 2018 02:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BlackBat242 (Post 590870)
One cure is to read. A lot

I couldn't agree more except to add Pournelle and Niven and Piper to the source list.

Quote:

Originally Posted by BlackBat242 (Post 590870)
remember: "He who hesitates is lost", and "It is better to make a wrong decision and act on it than to make no decision at all." Don't worry about having your character do the "correct" thing - just have him/her do something!

I don't disagree but I would like to add a caveat. I remember my first try as a DM - running the D&D Hommlet series - when I expected one of the characters to step up and lead but none did. So I used a NPC to push them toward goals. It was very linear despite my preparation to respond to player initiative but everyone had fun anyway.

The situation doesn't translate well because traveller has a setting far deeper and wider than Greyhawk, but the fact remains that as referee you have to sometimes fill gaps and always provide what the group wants if you want to succeed.

Tiikeri August 11th, 2018 07:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by robject (Post 590857)
And in all cases, I realized that I stink as a player.

It's ok. No one is perfect. I enjoy reading your posts, and I still think you're cool. At least you're not me. You have that to be thankful for.

Anyway,

Seems like your concerns are:

1) Little to no imagination.

2) You can't decide what your character should do.

3) You don't think ahead.

4) You don't naturally take to puzzle solving.


Let's address these points one at a time.

1) Little to no imagination. IMO, it's quite possible your imagination isn't being stimulated. You're not being presented with an intriguing, interesting situation. Read me the intro paragraph of a D&D module, and trust me, I don't give a rat's what happens.

Solutions:

* Who is your character? What does he care about? What makes him mad enough to fight? What makes him love enough to risk his safety? Is there a woman he loves so much that he would smash Aton Winston Peale's head into a table just to make her notice him? Would some punk ripping up an Imperial flag make him fight 10 guys just to plant a solid right hook on that punk's jaw? Does he care about the lives he's taken or the men he's maimed during his military service and adventuring career? Did he ever get married? Why or why not? Does he regret that his space murderhobo lifestyle took the best years of his life and he doesn't have anything to offer a woman except a bunch of scars and half-remembered stories? Does the first thing a woman says to him start with "Yah, you buy me drinky, I know you got credits, Impie!"


* Do the scenarios you're presented with in a session discourage any in-depth development of who your character is? Do they focus on the next tactical exercise or saving Charted Space again? Do these challenges and situations mean ANYTHING to your character, or are they just another ammo bill? Where is your character's heart?


* Does your character give a steaming cup of Basic about the people he's in the scenario's life-threatening situation with? Are they the brothers in arms that he'll give his life for before letting them down? Or are they the people he wishes would just step on a mine so they would stop talking?

* Connect your character to these feelings. Connect him to the dread of yet another life threatening situation that he's gotten himself into. Why? Patriotism? If he doesn't fight for the Imperium who will? Does he need that one big score? Is he getting back at life every time he pulls the trigger on some nameless thermal image in his combat armor's heads up display? If he earns enough money on this job will it be what he needs to get that manor estate out in Five Sisters? Give your character feelings and reasons and these will tell him what to do. All stories are human stories.


2) Can't decide what your character should do.

Well, again, it depends on the scenario, but as always, there comes that time when your character has to settle up his bar tab or get out of his bunk and go take care of business. He's in a situation. What kind of a guy is he? Is he strong and tough? Would he go somewhere and ask around, knowing he could take on anyone who doesn't like some stranger asking questions? Or is he older, more bookish, retiring, with his startown-brawling days behind him? Maybe a character like that would check records, speak to admin people, check starport logs, with a cask of Zilan wine under his arm. Again, who he is guides you. If the ref says, wull, you have to go here and do this, then you're in a pickle, because it doesn't matter who anybody is, you have to go there and do that. But... how does your character, with his feelings and personality, react to that? Would he say ok let's shank these guys, get the macguffin and get paid, or would he say mayne, I don't want to be here any more than you do. You don't mess with me, I don't mess with you, and I'll just get rid of this macguffin for you.

Again, a lot of this comes down to the kind of scenarios you're being presented with. A lot of Traveller is something like "A random stranger bugs you to do something illegal before being hustled away by the police." No reasonable person would listen. They'd even say, thanks for getting that freak away from us, officers. Refs need to help the players by presenting the characters with situations they'd reasonably take an interest in.

When you're character is in a situation, think through every obstacle that might be in your way, then think of what you will do to overcome that obstacle.

Example: Get the macguffin from an isolated mountaintop villa
Obstacle: mountaintop
Solution: grav vehicle, climbing gear, ground car and be ready to force the road.
Obstacle: Guards.
Solution: Take them out. Lethal or non-lethal? Research their capabilities. Get appropriate weapons. Figure out tactics. Watch them. Frontal assault or stealth? Spy on them with space binos from the opposite mountaintop.
Obstacle: Security systems.
Solution: Check them out, see what's available on that planet. Bring a specialist in electronics or mechanical, depending of the tech level.

You get the idea. The ref had to think of all this, so he wants you to figure it out. He'll be glad to tell you what you discover.

3) You don't think ahead. Solution: practice thinking through what obstacles there might be and possible solutions, as above. Listen to what other players are saying. I'm sure there's a lively discussion about what the characters could be up against and what to do.

4) Puzzles are usually boring. Like, okaaaaay, there's an alien pyramid, yeah man! Any reasonable person would say well, call an effing archaeologist, what do I effing look like to you? But, for some reason you have to go in there. Well, golly. So there's your Navy vet, standing in front of this crumbling alien edifice in a corrosive atmosphere thinking how in Iphegenia's comfortable shoes did I get myself into this? And the first officer says, quiet you, self-actualized womyn are talking. Well, stuff like this is a holdover from how what we'll politely call 'scenarios' used to be designed, and a lot of refs still do it. To boil it down to the chickenskins, it shakes out to be go-here-and-do-this. This means you just have to go touch it. Interact with it. Walk around in it. Look out for typical ref surprises like tripwires, energy fields, face hugging xenomorphs, trapdoors, and magic items- I mean, Ancient artifacts. Be careful. Inspect everything. Say the traditional chant at every room and corridor: Ohhhhhmmmmmm, magicitems/secretdoors/checkfortraps. The environment or location is meant for you to explore it, so check it out. Have the other characters with you, so they can share in the joy of the ref's little surprises. Just make sure someone is in back with a rope and a rescue harness.

After all the cool little surprises, you'll usually find the Answer to the Mystery, like the data chip, the alien control room, the boss battle, or whatever it is you've gone through hell to get.


Quote:

Anne McCaffery (her sci-fi stuff)
Dinosaur Planet was cool, but Pern was meh. Skip Marion Zimmer Bradley. She was an utter monster in her private life.

Tiikeri August 11th, 2018 03:53 PM

Here's the trouble with books, TV and movies.

It's all scripted. Every little line, every little thing was placed in there deliberately after a team of writers spent months figuring everything out. All the guns on the table in Act 1 will be fired in Act 3, and the writers work on the script until that happens. In game terms, this is called railroading.

Why did Luke fly down a trench then fire his missiles so they would have to make a right angle to hit the target? Because placing the climactic battle in a confined space allegedly heightens audience tension. The Rebel fleet could have stood 100,000km off the death star and fired salvo after salvo directly at the exhaust port, which happened to face directly out from the surface of the death star. But then, we wouldn't have our kewl space battle, so common sense goes out with last night's pizza boxes.

That's why a lot of things in movies and books and so on don't make any sense. Writers are trained to write exciting stories, not plausible stories.

Anyway,

Traveller games are emergent stories. There's an initial set of conditions, a bunch of people with differing abilities and personalities who somehow get roped into dealing with it, and they're supposed to flop around until they accomplish what ever it is, or fail. That flopping around, the PCs' actions and the setting's reactions, is the story. There's no set ending, no set character arcs, and none of the set dramatic structures that a book or a show requires. So, what we're left with is the flopping as the players come up with a plan off the cuff and attempt through trial and error to get whatever they're doing done.

So, we have false starts, failed attempts, lots of not knowing what to do, and lots of blind sqirrels looking for a nut because the PCs have so little information, and sometimes a sense of futility.

But, this should all be forgiven, because the alternative is some pretty brutal railroading. Ok, when Luke, Han and the gang go to Alderaan, they happen to show up right after the death star blows it up. This is the equivalent of a GM saying ok, you get blown off course by a warp storm, or ok, you misjump and now you're at an Exotic Locale that you have to explore because the misjump damaged the jump drive. Players hate this even though it's a necessity in books and shows.

IMO the cure for this is a type of collaboration between the ref and players. The players make characters who are interesting to them, and who have strong feelings about things, things they love, things they hate, and things which motivate them. In turn, the ref creates adventures that are relevant and connected to the characters and their motivations.

Gray Lensman August 11th, 2018 04:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BlackBat242 (Post 590870)
One cure is to read. A lot.

And to read stories, not in-depth character examinations masquerading as novels.

Go back to the 1950s & 60s (and 70s), and read Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak, Poul Anderson, Bertram Chandler, etc - books that are about telling the story first, and about the adventure of it all second - with introspection & pschyoanalytics nearly nonexistent.

Heck, Lois Bujold & Anne McCaffery (her sci-fi stuff) would do well also.

Just expose yourself to a lot of stories about adventure in space, and which deal with a wide variety of professions and backgrounds.


And remember: "He who hesitates is lost", and "It is better to make a wrong decision and act on it than to make no decision at all." Don't worry about having your character do the "correct" thing - just have him/her do something!

This, except I take it a step further and actually take notes on how the characters resolve their situations. Helps me to get back in problem-solving mode.

And Bat, Excellent list of authors!

To Tiikeri: I didn't care for the Dinosaur Planet line but do love Pern, I am even using the Pernese Dragons as models for the 3.5 D&D world I am currently developing. To each his/her own ......;)

JimMarn August 11th, 2018 05:18 PM

I ran TOON at a convention a couple of years.

Some players had very active imaginations, and others didn't work out.

One of the scenarios I ran:

You find yourself on an infinte plain. What do you do ?

One player asked 'Does it have engines ?'.

I said yes.

So he got the other players to look for a cockpit, after all, if it had engines, it could be controlled, landed, etc.

Next session in the afternoon. Same scenario. They had their characters walk until they found an end to the infinite plain. They never found it.

I even hinted 'have you thought of looking for a control room ?'.

I got blank looks and one player asked 'What for ?'.

So indeed imagnation is paramount.


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