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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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  #31  
Old September 16th, 2018, 04:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Enoki View Post
If the players do go off into the proverbial left field, then sometimes it's better to just admit defeat, so-to-speak, and tell them, "I really didn't expect you guys to do that. How about we call it a night? That'll give me a chance to work up something decent for what you've decided to do, rather than me trying to improvise."
This is one reason I prefer Play by Post. I can look at the characters, what I know of the players, and craft the story around them.

Addendum: Which doesn't mean I'm a good DM though.
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  #32  
Old September 16th, 2018, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Enoki View Post
If the players do go off into the proverbial left field, then sometimes it's better to just admit defeat, so-to-speak, and tell them, "I really didn't expect you guys to do that. How about we call it a night? That'll give me a chance to work up something decent for what you've decided to do, rather than me trying to improvise."
What I have done is simply as you did, tell them I wasn't prepared for them to go there.

I have even told them there is a wooden barracade, with small oil lamps on it to show the sign in several languages.

"Area under construction."
"Turn around or be cast into nothingness !"
"The Construction Company."
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  #33  
Old October 4th, 2018, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShawnDriscoll View Post
Don't force a story onto the players. Just give your NPCs their own goals, and role-play them as if they're in a sandbox that you'll be adding the PCs into. Everything else is character-driven after that. As a Referee, you decide when and what types of task checks will be needed to roll for. The "stories" will reveal themselves at the end of each session.
Granted, I had to read this a couple of times to understand what I think ShawnDriscoll is trying to say. And, frankly, for the most part, I agree with him. But I think his point can be better illustrated with an example.

Let's take the movie Star Wars to use as our example. (I heard it did fairly well at the box office.)

Our player character, Luke Skywalker, is down on the moisture farm, just getting by, when these two robots fall into his life. While making repairs, he happens to stumble upon a incomplete, but cryptic, message from a beautiful damsel in distress. The robot carrying the message tricks Luke into taking off its restraining bolt, escapes during the night, and our hero is forced to go after it. After bit of an adventure, he finds the old hermit the message is intended for, sees it in its entirety, whereby the beautiful damsel in distress pleads with the old hermit to deliver the secret plans she has stolen for a doomsday machine to the good guys, in order to save the universe.

That is a plot!

And you are now at the hook. I agree with ShawnDriscoll at this point. It is the NPCs, (in this case, the robots, and the damsel in distress,) that is moving your players along the path you have plotted out. And I agree, the players characters, Ben and Luke, can make a choice. They can go with the flow, and play out the next part. Or they can just say "Screw this chick! I'm not getting involved!"

It is up to you, as a Storyteller, to guide them down the path you want them to take. You shouldn't force them. And you should be ready for them to take a path you least expect. However, it is your ability to role-play these NPCs in such a compelling manner the players choose to go down the path of your story-line. And that is definitely the mark of a good Referee.

Where I disagree with ShawnDriscoll is what happens next. In the movie, Ben and Luke decide to get involved, but they're not planning to rescue the princess. Quite the opposite. All they want to do is deliver the plans, and then they're out. What happens next, isn't just the "sandbox." You, the Referee, don't necessarily just allow the story to play out the way the players see it. You take control of the direction of the story at this point. Master storytellers like George Lucas can do this almost seamlessly.

Our heroes get to the rendezvous point, but there's no one here to rendezvous with. The doomsday machine has already arrived and blown up the planet! That's not the "sandbox." That's you, the Storyteller, taking the initiative and throwing a twist into the plot, whether you planned it in advance, or made it up on the fly.

And, even then, be ready for your players to get off track.

"The Princess! She's here? The droids belong to her. She's the one in the message! We've got to help her!"

"I'm not going anywhere."

"But they're going to kill her!"

"Better her than me!"

I agree the players should not be forced to do anything. They should have the freedom to make their own choices -- to have the ability to make their mark on the story, to make it their own. But the other trait of a good Referee is to direct the story, not by forcing the players to goose-step to his drum-beat, but to influence the players quietly and subtly.

"She's rich...!"

Last edited by ManOfGrey; October 4th, 2018 at 03:22 PM..
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  #34  
Old October 4th, 2018, 10:06 PM
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A good ref can subtly influence the directions players go in by making sure they see/understand the possible consequences of their deviating too far off the acceptable option at that time.

One way is the advance use of some NPC being made an example of for doing the 'wrong thing' well before the players have that option. Think of it as adding some background color.. A good example if the use of a Redshirt on Star Trek showing how the monster works before Kirk and Co. come near. It is tried and true, and I believe that use of a (very) minor NPC to provide some dramatic foreshadowing to avoid possibly unnecessary wear and tear on PC's is mentioned in a JTAS article. Lord knows it's been in every rule book and magazine ever printed in some form or another.

Potential treason against the Princess by informing or something? Have a security briefing:

"We have had some sources in Imperial Forces leak to us a plot to capture the Princess by offering huge rewards to whoever rats her out. Be advised that you wouldn't survive the Imperial offer any longer than telling them where she is hiding since the Empire are known jackboots who think your life is as valuable as Wampa crap anyway. And as for what we would do to any traitors, well come observe the pathetic whining of this traitor before we blow him out the airlock. It took 6 weeks to find him but we never give up on that sort of thing."

Then, later, if tempted by more money than even they can imagine you can remind them of the screams of the traitor rat. Then let them decide.

A warning shot goes a long way towards informing the players of all there options. You can also just not give them a choice while making it look like they have one.

In sales (and a lot of other areas) it is important to never let the customer have choices other than the one ones you want them to have. Players wanna rat out the Princess? How do they do that and survive the experience? There are stormtroopers wiping out everyone who tries to surrender, women and children and pets! The ship is on fire and going down .....and the Princess turns to the players and gives them the spiel about how the destiny of the Rebellion now rests with them, will they please help?

Season that with some time sensitivity by a few too-close-for-comfort blaster shots hitting the bulkhead next to their heads and any survival -oriented PC will (at least temporarily) run for cover and help the Princess. From there on they are also now painted with the same brush as her and a few wanted posters will enforce the fact that their fortunes are now inextricably intertwined with her survival. A few small rewards in their pockets here and there will cement it.
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  #35  
Old October 8th, 2018, 04:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
Our player character, Luke Skywalker, is down on the moisture farm, just getting by, when these two robots fall into his life.
Ugh. Sounds a bit forced by the Referee. The Luke Traveller can decide what to do in the desert sandbox. He may not even encounter the junk robot dealers the day they came through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
While making repairs, he happens to stumble upon a incomplete, but cryptic, message from a beautiful damsel in distress.
Depends on what the player was role-playing at the time with his Luke Traveller. There may be a chance that he plays the entire message, or it is forever lost.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
The robot carrying the message tricks Luke into taking off its restraining bolt, escapes during the night, and our hero is forced to go after it.
Forced? Hand-of-God stuff from Referees is generally in bad form. Besides, the Luke Traveller may have other things to do that are more important/interesting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
After bit of an adventure, he finds the old hermit the message is intended for, sees it in its entirety, whereby the beautiful damsel in distress pleads with the old hermit to deliver the secret plans she has stolen for a doomsday machine to the good guys, in order to save the universe.

That is a plot!
It's just a hook, if anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
And you are now at the hook. I agree with ShawnDriscoll at this point. It is the NPCs, (in this case, the robots, and the damsel in distress,) that is moving your players along the path you have plotted out.
Moving players is bad form. See railroading. And a plot is not needed in a sandbox.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
And I agree, the players characters, Ben and Luke, can make a choice. They can go with the flow, and play out the next part. Or they can just say "Screw this chick! I'm not getting involved!"
Going with the flow is just riding on a Disney themepark ride. Players are not involved, but rather just sitting at the table to be told a story about how wonderful and heroic their characters are. That's a whole other game style. Not character-driven for sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
It is up to you, as a Storyteller, to guide them down the path you want them to take. You shouldn't force them. And you should be ready for them to take a path you least expect. However, it is your ability to role-play these NPCs in such a compelling manner the players choose to go down the path of your story-line. And that is definitely the mark of a good Referee.
Interesting. No mention at all of task checks and when/why they are used ever.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
Where I disagree with ShawnDriscoll is what happens next. In the movie, Ben and Luke decide to get involved, but they're not planning to rescue the princess. Quite the opposite. All they want to do is deliver the plans, and then they're out. What happens next, isn't just the "sandbox." You, the Referee, don't necessarily just allow the story to play out the way the players see it. You take control of the direction of the story at this point. Master storytellers like George Lucas can do this almost seamlessly.
That's what movies and books are for. Not character-driven role-play sessions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
Our heroes get to the rendezvous point, but there's no one here to rendezvous with. The doomsday machine has already arrived and blown up the planet! That's not the "sandbox." That's you, the Storyteller, taking the initiative and throwing a twist into the plot, whether you planned it in advance, or made it up on the fly.
The game setting has characters in it. Each with their own goals. There are events happening and some that have not happened yet. A tree will fall and no one will be around to hear it. A planet will blow up and no one will know about it until much later. It depends on what the players are doing. I won't force players to do things to get them to go somewhere so that I can do what? I'm just the Referee. I only ask for task checks, and narrate about things happening nearby.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ManOfGrey View Post
And, even then, be ready for your players to get off track.
They are making their own tracks. See story revealed at end of game session.
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  #36  
Old October 8th, 2018, 05:45 AM
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The best games come from a shared story building effort between the DM and the players. As a player I'm very willing to allow the DM to set up a scene or event arc. My expectation is that my character will deepen or grow "in-character". A lot of joy comes from emotional transference between the character and the gamer/reader. No transference generally kills the story pretty quickly. Lack of shared story building tends to kill the game quickly.

"Game balance" plays no significant part in a good shared story. Engagement and cooperation play a huge role. Respecting character concept and following the main story theme are crucial. Adding variety via dice rolls adds, well, variety. Absent intelligent design, though, games seem to die quickly. If they ever actually have "life".
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  #37  
Old October 8th, 2018, 10:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike wightman View Post
It's not the referee that tells the story - it is the actions of the players through their characters that tells the story.

The referee's job is to set the scene, adjudicate the rules, and run the NPCs.

I have seen too many games fall apart over the years because the referee had this cool story to tell that the players would be part of - except the players kept doing stuff off script which spoils the referee's story.

A good ref has adapts to what the players do, he/she doesn't try to have a script that the players must follow.
Yup, This.

The Ref is responsible for creating a setting and stopping where the Players have an opportunity to either do something or interact with someone. If the players are just standing around wondering what they CAN do, the Ref has not done a good job.
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  #38  
Old October 8th, 2018, 10:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShawnDriscoll View Post
That's what movies and books are for. Not character-driven role-play sessions.

QUOTED FOR TRUTH.

I can't even begin to count the number of times I've had players turn to me during a Try Traveller one-off at a FLGS and ask out of character "What should I do now?"

Yet, despite showing no ability to "self start", the same people will scream about railroading if the referee as much as nudges them in one direction or another.

Too many people subconsciously act as if RPGs are movies or books, no matter they want to claim otherwise.

Sandboxes are great...

... if the players can use them.
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  #39  
Old October 8th, 2018, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whipsnade View Post
QUOTED FOR TRUTH.

I can't even begin to count the number of times I've had players turn to me during a Try Traveller one-off at a FLGS and ask out of character "What should I do now?"

Yet, despite showing no ability to "self start", the same people will scream about railroading if the referee as much as nudges them in one direction or another.

Too many people subconsciously act as if RPGs are movies or books, no matter they want to claim otherwise.

Sandboxes are great...

... if the players can use them.
Are you familiar with something called "the 5 by 5 method"?

Start your players off with options. For the sake of "tradition" let's begin in a Bar just outside the Spaceport. All players know each other and two of the players arrived already possessing one "RUMOR" that leads them to an adventure if they choose to follow up on it. In addition, there is a bulletin board with two Job Offers that catch their attention (also links to two more adventures). Finally, there is a man who knows somebody trying to sell some cargo real cheep, if they are interested (yet another link to an adventure).

Using the 5x5 method, you have 5 different starting adventures to choose from and the Ref can explain to the players that they are free to pursue any of the choices that they wish. Each starting point should have a next logical step (person or location) for the group to pursue.

In the 5x5 method, the matrix of 5 steps to each adventure thread have been selected to deliberately seek to overlap either people or locations between different adventure threads. This creates a greater sense that all of the adventures are tied together and allows the group the option to pursue one or more adventure and switch between adventures.

The players are never overwhelmed by having infinite choices and no idea where to start and neither are they railroaded into only one adventure.

It has been a great help for me and I find that in a campaign, random encounters and the player reaction to them often generate new adventure threads that the Referee can plot out into the future as old threads not taken are dropped.
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Old October 8th, 2018, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atpollard View Post
Are you familiar with something called "the 5 by 5 method"?

Yes I am. I've used it, variations of it, and other "tricks" too. The players sitting in that one-off session can't even be bothered to chose between 2 choices let alone five.

Part of it is because the session is a casual one. It's a one-off, it's meant as an introduction, and no one is invested in either the outcome or PCs. I get that. What I don't understand is the passivity of the players, their inability to choose, their inability to even want to choose. It isn't as if it's a tricky puzzle either. I usually run one of the ATV Doubles specifically because the players must make choices; i.e. Which direction will you drive in? And they still can't or won't make a choice without constant input from me.

It's not all players, but it is a generational thing. People today want to be amused rather than amuse themselves. They're passive voyeurs rather than active participants but they'll scream out loud if they feel you're railroading them.
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