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The purpose of play?


JDemlow

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Hey all! New guy here. Love the forum and love BRP! ;t)

I wanted to use my first post to talk about something that has been bugging me. What is the purpose of playing RPGs? I am running a classic CoC campaign and also a modern Delta Green campaign, and I have a couple PCs that (it seems to me), feel like the purpose of play is to "win" the game.

I feel like the purpose of play is to have lots of fun by role playing in an interesting and stylized fashion, so as to create many interesting and memorable scenes. I feel like I want the players to change their play style to suit the game, but I also don't want to puppet them just to see the scenario play out. Is there a delicate and appropriate way to address this? Anyone have a similar experience.

I really want everyone to get the most fun out of each session, but I don't want to railroad anybody either.

~ J

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In general, the purpose is to have fun - no qualifications necessary. That is first and foremost. Now, as to what "fun" is differs from person to person. So, for some, the "fun" of any game is "to win".

That said, trying to "change" your players' concept of fun is not a great idea because, in all likelihood, it will lead to trouble. Your best bet is to lay out what your expectations are, and have everyone else involved lay out theirs. And, of course, you may find that what someone says and what they really mean are not the same. That's life.

Don't try to dissuade the players in question from believing they can "win" - after all, the dice will land as they may, and they might end up winning ... this time. But, as long as you abide by the rules of the game, hopefully everyone will have fun at the beginning. It's the end where people may no longer have fun - but this is true of any game where PC death (or, in CoC's case, insanity) is a possibility. After all, WRT the players in question, surely in other RPGs they have met untimely PC death or have otherwise not "won".

Ian

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In general, the purpose is to have fun - no qualifications necessary. That is first and foremost. Now, as to what "fun" is differs from person to person. So, for some, the "fun" of any game is "to win".

That said, trying to "change" your players' concept of fun is not a great idea because, in all likelihood, it will lead to trouble. Your best bet is to lay out what your expectations are, and have everyone else involved lay out theirs. And, of course, you may find that what someone says and what they really mean are not the same. That's life.

Fair enough. Thanks for the input. I appreciate it!

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Players sometimes change their concept of fun over time, for example when a certain style of

roleplaying is becoming boring and a new style is discovered, but "educating" players to like a

specific style usually does not work and has a tendency to make them dislike the game, the re-

feree or both.

What you can do, is to subtly offer the options you would prefer them to take, and to subtly re-

ward what you consider good roleplaying. However, the key word really is "subtly", without any

kind of force and without any kind of railroading - and especially without any kind of "punish-

ment" for those players who ignore or refuse the options you offer.

In my experience the best kind of reward for something like this is an in game reward, not just

a number of any kind of points. To give an example, players whose characters always kill their

opponents and never accept their surrender could change their mind if the opponent they spa-

red pays a considerable ransom or later on helps them out of a desperate situation. This way

it is the setting that reacts to the characters' actions, not the referee who reacts to the players'

decisions.

But in the end even this way of influencing players is problematic, and there can always be play-

ers whose ideas of fun are incompatible with those of the other members of the group. In such

a case, there could be no other solution to the problem than to continue without such a player -

for the referee, it is usually better to lose a player than to lose his own fun in the game.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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BTW, just to play it straight here - I often "play to win" myself, and have participated in a very well run CoC campaign (yes, I said campaign) where we all "played to win".

Playing to win may just mean that you are playing to succeed - we wanted to stop the cultists. It did not mean that we did not get engrossed in the atmosphere (we all very much enjoy HPL's tales), and we roleplayed to the hilt (I am, by education, an actor and my character was one as well, which I used to good measure to defeat the villain more than once).

Perhaps, it should be noted, that playing to win, and getting into character and engrossed in the setting, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Ian

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Perhaps, it should be noted, that playing to win, and getting into character and engrossed in the setting, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Yes, of course. In the end, whenever a character has a motivation and something he wants

to achieve because of this motivation, he attempts to "win" by achieving it - and so does his

player when playing the character accordingly.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Perhaps, it should be noted, that playing to win, and getting into character and engrossed in the setting, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I totally agree, but allow me to elaborate as it applies to my specific situation. I'm running CoC, which from what I've experienced as a player, a GM, and a fan of Lovecraft, is supposed to be very deadly, and as a general rule, people are supposed to avoid combat and guns (even if they have them). What I meant by "win", is more of the D&D 4e, balls and chunk, conquer and kill approach (this is maybe only 10% of the time, so it's not a game killer, it's just super annoying). After all the hard work that goes in to running a game, I feel like they could make more of an effort to understand the ins and outs.

I am totally willing to accept my share of the responsibility in the situation, and like I said, it's not life or death. I would just like to avoid it.

Thanks again for all the great comments. It really helps.

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What I meant by "win", is more of the D&D 4e, balls and chunk, conquer and kill approach ...

There would be at least two ways to handle this, I think.

The first one would be to modify the campaign slightly in the direction of a "kill the monsters"

horror game, allowing the characters to fight and succeed in a less dangerous setting. There

are a couple of Lovecraftian stories of that kind written by other authors who contributed to

the mythos, and some of the recent Cthulhu inspired roleplaying games also tend towards a

background of this kind.

However, my own response to the situation would be quite different. When it comes to Call

of Cthulhu and the mythos, I am a firm believer in the "attack directly and you die" philosophy.

A character who thinks that he can treat a mythos creature like a D&D monster rarely survives

the encounter, and a player who attempts to play Call of Cthulhu like D&D has a significant cha-

racter turnover.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I totally agree, but allow me to elaborate as it applies to my specific situation. I'm running CoC, which from what I've experienced as a player, a GM, and a fan of Lovecraft, is supposed to be very deadly, and as a general rule, people are supposed to avoid combat and guns (even if they have them). What I meant by "win", is more of the D&D 4e, balls and chunk, conquer and kill approach (this is maybe only 10% of the time, so it's not a game killer, it's just super annoying). After all the hard work that goes in to running a game, I feel like they could make more of an effort to understand the ins and outs.

I am totally willing to accept my share of the responsibility in the situation, and like I said, it's not life or death. I would just like to avoid it.

Thanks again for all the great comments. It really helps.

I recommend you reread HPL, especially Call of Cthulhu. There is plenty of weapon use, not successfully necessarily, but it is there. Many people's response to fear would be to fire away if they have some weapon at hand.

Also, note that Delta Green and Classic Cthulhu differ significantly.

I would sit down and make sure the players understand a few things:

1) This is the (whatever)th Century - certain laws apply (even in the case of modern Delta Green campaigns). Killing people is frowned upon by whatever officials are in control. Even if the PCs are trying to save the world, since we are dealing with Mythos stuff that everyday people cannot comprehend, trying to explain in a court of law that such and such cultist was going to bring about the end of the world if he wasn't stopped is oging to take a lot of convincing and evidence, and even that might not be enough.

2) When confronting any big bad nasties, weapons may be ineffective. If the players do not think of some great tactics, or better yet, alternative means of gaining the upper hand and overcoming obstacles in less direct ways, they should be prepared to "lose".

The two players in question might be annoying in their "10% of the time balls out approach to combat", the first few times they lose and find out that such actions are not wise (again, whether they lose the fight outright, or have to face a judge or some other legal mess later), they will either quit the game, or learn to approach things differently. Either way, the situation should resolve it self. I am not by any means saying to forcefully make this point and target the players with such bad results, but if in the course of play it should happen, and they are previously made aware of the fact that it will (not can, will) happen, then you should be fine.

Ian

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I play roleplaying games to have fun. That's it.

However, when I am playing, I can have fun in different ways.

Playing within the setting is good, if the setting and game is good. That can be fun.

Stretching the setting to do other things can be great fun and can spark off different adventures and different playing styles.

Runnin roughshod over a setting can also be great fun, if both the players and GM allow it and are happy with the idea.

Sticking rigidly to a certain gaming style within a setting isn't that much fun for me, so we don't generally do it.

An old group of mine played a Call of Cthulhu campaign which involved Depth-Charging some Deep Ones in San Fransisco Bay and a whole lot of other shenanigans. Most of them went mad eventually but they enjoyed the game because they weren't sticking to the standard way of playing.

The important thing is to enjoy the game you are playing.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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I did run a game with an unarmed vampire and when the PCs predictably went at him with weapons, he simply moved to one side, effortlessly took the weapons off them and carried on talking to them. They soon decided to rethink their strategy and looked for other ways to defeat it.

If you go into the game with the idea of having to "defeat" the creature then that puts you in a particular mindset. However, if you go in with the idea of a mystery to be solved then solving it might be done in several ways (getting out of there, rescuing somebody, spoiling a fiendish plot, summoning something, banishing something, dying horribly).

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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To echo the general sentiment, the one and only point of RPGs is to have fun. I shamelessly admit having great fun playing a power-munchkin monty haul D&D 3.0 campaign at one point, although generally my tendencies are more satisfied by having to scrape and toil for every step forward my character takes (probably from reading too much British Marvel in my youth). An important point to keep in mind, IMO, is that the GM is also part of the group, and he has to have at least as much fun as the players or no-one will be happy. How many volunteer workers will keep at a job they hate?

I'm sure I'm not that abnormal a GM, and I get more fun out of seeing my players have fun than I do out of frustrating their desires. A little bit more, anyway. >:>

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I feel like the purpose of play is to have lots of fun by role playing in an interesting and stylized fashion, so as to create many interesting and memorable scenes. I feel like I want the players to change their play style to suit the game, but I also don't want to puppet them just to see the scenario play out. Is there a delicate and appropriate way to address this?

How about awarding a "Victory Point" to players when they do some interesting/memorable RP? Keep a League Table of VPs, with whoever's at the top having the title of "Current Campaign Winner" or some such.

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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How about awarding a "Victory Point" to players when they do some interesting/memorable RP? Keep a League Table of VPs, with whoever's at the top having the title of "Current Campaign Winner" or some such.

I gave that a shot one time and it led to some hurt feelings. I enjoy that sort of thing as well, but if someone goes a few sessions without being awarded anything, it can lead to some interesting conversations, so I avoid it. I like it a lot as a PC though.

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I gave that a shot one time and it led to some hurt feelings. I enjoy that sort of thing as well, but if someone goes a few sessions without being awarded anything, it can lead to some interesting conversations, so I avoid it. I like it a lot as a PC though.

And was it the "play to win" guys who tended to miss out on the awards? If so, hurt feelings or not, it may be exactly what's needed.

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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And was it the "play to win" guys who tended to miss out on the awards? If so, hurt feelings or not, it may be exactly what's needed.

Not really. Its just prone to increasing the sense of conflict between them and the GM rather than doing anything to address the behavior.

Social engineering of this kind never really works except in the already mildest cases.

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The only (few) cases I have seen where this kind of reward with points did work was

when the players decided who among them would deserve a reward for good roleplay-

ing, not the referee.

However, in these cases the players define what "good roleplaying" is, and if their de-

finition is not the same as the referee's definition, this can backfire badly.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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However, in these cases the players define what "good roleplaying" is, and if their de-

finition is not the same as the referee's definition, this can backfire badly.

So, it needs to be clear to everyone what constitutes good roleplaying.

And I hope everyone here will agree it's not 'playing the tactical combat role expected of your character class' (which seems to be what WotC are trying to re-define it as with 4E).

Systems for the GM to reward Good RP will help players learn the true meaning.

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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And I hope everyone here will agree it's not 'playing the tactical combat role expected of your character class'

Agreed, this is a definition I would only accept if my character were a combat robot. :7

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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So - anybody care to have a stab at defining 'good roleplaying'?

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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So, it needs to be clear to everyone what constitutes good roleplaying.

And I hope everyone here will agree it's not 'playing the tactical combat role expected of your character class' (which seems to be what WotC are trying to re-define it as with 4E).

Systems for the GM to reward Good RP will help players learn the true meaning.

No, it helps the player learn what the GM defines it as.

I don't particularly see that the GM should be the arbiter of what constitutes good roleplaying. And I think a rather large number of people feel the same.

I don't see as its either necessary or desirable for everyone to be lockstepped as to what is the appropriate way to play the game, even within one group. If someone doesn't actively throw everything off for others, I think that's all you should reasonably expect.

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No, it helps the player learn what the GM defines it as.

I don't particularly see that the GM should be the arbiter of what constitutes good roleplaying. And I think a rather large number of people feel the same.

I don't see as its either necessary or desirable for everyone to be lockstepped as to what is the appropriate way to play the game, even within one group.

Good RP is hard to pin down, like 'quality'. Won't you help us try to identify some of it's elements? Clearly it's not the WotC definition above, and I don't think it's 'Kill things and take their stuff' either (which a couple of the OP's players seem to be doing).

If a GM thinks his game is suffering due to poor RP, surely it's his duty to encourage a better RP style?

(Or do 'a rather large number of people' really disagree with that idea?)

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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If a GM thinks his game is suffering due to poor RP, surely it's his duty to encourage a better RP style?

I would like to add "provided that his players agree to try a different style of roleplaying", be-

cause an attempt to "educate" the players against their will is both questionable and very li-

kely to fail, even if it is a very subtle attempt - and awarding points is not subtle at all.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I would like to add "provided that his players agree to try a different style of roleplaying"...

If you must, but discussing it would probably make "an issue" of it - better just to put an RP mechanism in place, and the job's done. If they continue to play, then they have agreed! Trying to make them agree beforehand is pointless - would such players admit their style is flawed? Of course not.

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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The problem is there is no constant/unique definition of what good roleplaying is since it can change based upon the game, the GM, the group, the setting, etc.

If the game were set in an ancient Rome type setting, the PCs were gladiator type slaves, and the premise was pitting the PCs against all sorts of opponents, 'playing the tactical combat role expected of your character class' might be appropriate.

So, again, a social contract is needed. The GM and the players need to sit down beforehand and discuss play style and expectations. If everyone is not on the same page, and some just cannot accept how others like to play, or some create a situation in which others are no longer enjoying the game, then either people have to adjust to the situation, or leave the game.

Ian

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