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The purpose of play?


JDemlow

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

Kill the stuff and take their things? Or was it the other way around?

Anyway, in soviet glorantha Uz kill the PC's and take their stuff.

Joking aside, i don't think there is such a thing as an unified concept of "good roleplaying". In my games, "good roleplaying" means playing a character everyone "likes" (as a character concept), like it should/could act, AND have some fun.

Unfortunately my players think that power-crazed tapping addicts and humakti are "fun" so the games revolve around "killing things, their stuff and their families and burning it all so noone takes it".

Las session i had the sorcerer *BURN ALIVE* a blacksmith and his whole family just because he wanted to charge a little extra for a shield after the PCs woke him up. Note that they have no financial troubles at all, and specifically roleplayed this instead of just declaring "i get another shield on my way out boldhome"...

Now that i think about it, it was to be expected, this people actually *SPENT POW* to bind a ghost and threw the item into a lake, so the spirit would suffer an eternity of nothingness.

"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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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.

This is how we do it. We discuss the setting and the "flavour" the campaign will have, especially

how the setting will react to the characters' actions, because for us this is what determines the

roleplaying style of a campaign.

For example, in the setting I am working on weapons will be rare and the law enforcement will

be highly efficient and professional. A reckless "combat monster" character will most probably

soon have to face an angry SWAT team, and if he survives that a judge and a couple of years in

prison, effectively removing him from the campaign for good.

When talking about this setting, we do not discuss roleplaying styles, we talk about what the op-

tions of the characters in this campaign will be like - this time it will be much Mc Gyver, but no

Rambo. What is "good roleplaying" in this setting is determined by the inner logic of the setting

and the consequences it has for the characters, depending on their actions.

If the players agree to play this campaign, the setting itself will reward what is "good roleplay-

ing" in this campaign, and "punish" what is "bad roleplaying" under these specific conditions.

Not because I, the referee, decide to do so in order to "educate" the players, but because the

setting treats the characters according to the assumptions it is built upon.

Well, and if the players decide that this setting would be "too lame" for their taste, then that's

it. I will not attempt to convince them to play something they are not really interested in, as I

really hate to referee for unhappy or frustrated players - it ruins my fun, too.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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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.

Of course, you're right. And I'm reminded this is why we have a GM - to be the arbiter.

In my games, "good roleplaying" means playing a character everyone "likes" (as a character concept), like it should/could act, AND have some fun.

That sounds good!

Unfortunately my players think that power-crazed tapping addicts and humakti are "fun" so the games revolve around "killing things, their stuff and their families and burning it all so noone takes it".

But that doesn't. Really, the occasional bit of mayhem might be fun, but this is the sort of thing there should be a mechanism to discourage (or preferably, stop).

Well, and if the players decide that this setting would be "too lame" for their taste, then that's

it. I will not attempt to convince them to play something they are not really interested in, as I

really hate to referee for unhappy or frustrated players - it ruins my fun, too.

Hmm, but if the players veto the GM's preferred setting (due to not enough mindless violence for their 'taste') then his fun is already ruined. The GM should say what's what - that's fair because he does the work. GMs should not have to run systems, settings or situations they dislike.

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?

Depends. Is it just him that things so? Then the answer is "no". And even if many people think so, what they're really thinking is "The level/kind of roleplaying in the game isn't at what I like." The first question there, then, is "so what am I doing to make it better?"

Otherwise I'm really suspicios that in the vast majority of cases this translates into "You're not roleplaying in the fashion I like, so I'm going to pull out carrots and/or sticks to try to get you to." And I'm dubious that's an appropriate thing to be doing.

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

I think so, and I have what I consider good evidence to my satisfaction that its true. Its not a statement easy to prove, however.

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Of course, you're right. And I'm reminded this is why we have a GM - to be the arbiter.

But that begs the question of why the GM should be the arbiter of this. It necessary for someone to make a final decision on some things in the game, but what is and isn't acceptable roleplaying outside of some blatantly disruptive cases isn't one of them. It doesn't even seem warrented.

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This is also why it is usually a good idea to rotate GMs. That way, if you have some players who play one way, and some who play another, and both sides agree to respect each others styles, you play one way for a time, and then switch gears (or games, etc.) so the other side gets a chance to really enjoy things.

The GM as final arbiter is OK, but there still needs to be an almost consensus, or at least some compromises made. The GM cannot just put his foot down.

Ian

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Hmm, but if the players veto the GM's preferred setting (due to not enough mindless violence for their 'taste') then his fun is already ruined. The GM should say what's what - that's fair because he does the work. GMs should not have to run systems, settings or situations they dislike.

Since I do occasionally suffer from a bad case of worldbuilding fever, I usually have the frame-

works of several different settings ready that I can propose to the players. However, if they ve-

to all of them, for example because none of them is bloodthirsty enough for their taste, it is ti-

me for new players for me or a new referee for them - in my experience it is usually a rather

bad idea to try a foul compromise that makes no one happy.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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?

I've just realized that the Pendragon game system (a close BRP relative, source of the Personality Traits) is very much built around giving rewards for 'Good RP'. It's not about 'winning any way you can' - acting honourably is most important. OK, the role of Arthurian knights is pretty well-defined, but it's a good starting point. Using a similar system with a bit more flexibility could do the trick, encouraging those 'interesting and memorable scenes' you want.

And I don't recall anyone saying Pendragon is the GM 'puppeting' players...

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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I've seen many, many criques of Pendragon's traits system on just that grounds over the years.

Well I haven't. All I recall seeing is praise for Pendragon's innovative traits system, and people using it for other settings.

Were those critiques from players who'd prefer to forget the RP and just 'burn stuff', perhaps?

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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I've just realized that the Pendragon game system (a close BRP relative, source of the Personality Traits)

Wikipedia says that Pendragon came out in 1985 and Griffin Mountain came out in 1981. Griffin Mountain had Personality Traits for RQ/BRP way before Pendragon did.

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

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Wikipedia says that Pendragon came out in 1985 and Griffin Mountain came out in 1981. Griffin Mountain had Personality Traits for RQ/BRP way before Pendragon did.

Oh yes! For NPCs, and then for 'semi-PC' Dragonewts in Wyrms Footnotes (#14, 1982?). Pendragon made Traits core for PCs, and made them famous. But, OK - BRP/RQ had them first.

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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Well I haven't. All I recall seeing is praise for Pendragon's innovative traits system, and people using it for other settings.

Were those critiques from players who'd prefer to forget the RP and just 'burn stuff', perhaps?

Nope. Most were objections that the trait system is a coarse tool for the job, and overly mechanistic. In other words, most of them were on the part of people who thought it actually got in the way of roleplaying, rather than helping it.

Others, as I said, basically added up to not feeling it should be the GM telling people how is proper to play their characters; that that's the one thing a player controls in the game, and that having the GM get into it is tantamount to turning the players into just actors following the GM's script to one degree or another.

Edited by Nightshade
Forgot something
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Others, as I said, basically added up to not feeling it should be the GM telling people how is proper to play their characters; that that's the one thing a player controls in the game, and that having the GM get into it is tantamount to turning the players into just actors following the GM's script to one degree or another.

Well, but the Pendragon traits were not a GM thing, they mirrored the rules and expectations of

the different societies of the setting and highlighted the differences between the rules and ex-

pectations of these societies.

The players were free to change the traits of their characters, but the more they did this, the

more their society was likely to punish the unwelcome behaviour of the characters. This is not

the GM telling players how to roleplay their characters, this is the setting reacting to character

actions.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Most were objections that the trait system is a coarse tool for the job, and overly mechanistic. In other words, most of them were on the part of people who thought it actually got in the way of roleplaying, rather than helping it.

True, Pendragon Traits isn't the smoothest mechanism - but that's just a rules-design problem (which I for one am working to improve).

Hence what I actually recommended to the OP was a simple after-the-event tally, which doesn't have any in-game mechanic or effect. Not interfering with RP at all, just taking notice after it happens. But reminding players that acting gung-ho doesn't necessarily mean they're 'winning'...

This is not the GM telling players how to roleplay their characters, this is the setting reacting to character actions.

Yes, that's what's wanted. And hopefully, a simple 'RP Tally' could do just that.

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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Well, but the Pendragon traits were not a GM thing, they mirrored the rules and expectations of

the different societies of the setting and highlighted the differences between the rules and ex-

pectations of these societies.

And yet, somehow, I'm betting it was the GM deciding what those traits applied to and what they didn't. Not the players.

The players were free to change the traits of their characters, but the more they did this, the

more their society was likely to punish the unwelcome behaviour of the characters. This is not

the GM telling players how to roleplay their characters, this is the setting reacting to character

actions.

When there's an objective mechanism to tell when someone is "violating" thier trait (i.e. when the trait roll was to be invoked) I'll buy that. When there's an objective mechanism as to how the society knows in every case that someone has made a decision against their mores, I'll buy that. Until then, its still just a tool for the GM to tell the players how to run tiheir characters.

Otherwise they wouldn't be needed; all you'd have to do is say "This is the expectations of your society; if your society sees you're not meeting them, they'll respond badly." But those traits were far more than that.

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True, Pendragon Traits isn't the smoothest mechanism - but that's just a rules-design problem (which I for one am working to improve).

Any manditory traits system with teeth is going to produce that as a result. Because it still says that the GM is the final arbiter of the character's personality, not the player.

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And yet, somehow, I'm betting it was the GM deciding what those traits applied to and what they didn't. Not the players.

You should stop betting, at least when our group is involved ... ;D

Since the traits were designed to mirror the opinions and expectations of the society, it was of

course the other characters' (= the players') task to decide what exactly the traits meant and

when they applied.

This is not an "objective" mechanism, but a society does also not form its opinions in any "ob-

jective" way, it uses a rather (inter-) subjective consensus, just as the players do, so I see no

problem there.

In general, I try to leave as many decisions as possible to the players. Running the rest of the

setting is just enough effort for my taste, there is no need to grab more responsibilities than

are unavoidable, or to provide fuel for more debates than absolutely necessary.

So, whatever has to do with the characters is the players' job, never mine. I only get involved

in these things as final arbiter of the rules the players have decided upon, and only if they are

unable or unwilling to make the relevant decisions themselves - which is very rare.

The only problem this causes is that the players are often a lot more strict than I would have

been, they rarely look the other way when it comes to the rules they agreed upon, while I

would often be more "soft" and would be more willing to bend a rule in favour of a charac-

ter.

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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...all you'd have to do is say "This is the expectations of your society; if your society sees you're not meeting them, they'll respond badly."

Society's response would be delayed; Itinerant and/or over-powered characters could safely ignore it anyway. A traits system can immediately punish the bad behaviour (or reward the good).

Because it still says that the GM is the final arbiter of the character's personality, not the player.

Yes, of course - the GM *is* the final arbiter! But the system I'm suggesting here would not have any in-game effect. It wouldn't (directly) control the character's personality one iota. The players would still be free to choose their own traits and actions.

All it does is let the GM signal what he (or Society) thinks of their actions: e.g. give black marks to the 'Burn Stuff Brigade'. But the bad cases really don't like to be told other people think their 'Hero' is actually just a nasty bullying villain. You'd be surprised how much they kick and scream against that (or maybe you wouldn't).

The only problem this causes is that the players are often a lot more strict than I would have been...

So let the GM be in charge of the game. Nothing wrong with that!

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 purpose of play is to have fun. This is achieved by overcoming the challenges set by the GM. Sometimes (most times in my group, we normally play D&D) this will involve combat, some form of skill challenge, problem/puzzle solving and whatever else a creative GM can throw at his players.

I'm over the 'hack&slash' style of play preferred by my group (fostered by the D&D rule-set no doubt) and I'm looking forward to a new campaign using the BRP rules or perhaps Rods (threedsix) Classic Fantasy. From the start however, I want to ensure it is not a hack&slash campaign. To do this, I'll put forward the overall storyline and the setting and the players will base their characters around that. We will then move the story along with actions from the PCs driving the game, not some linear plot or dungeon crawl, this is not to say there won't be some of those elements included, but they won't be the focus. To me that's fun.

The most memorable role playing moments for me was when I had a male player playing a female barbarian prostitute being pimped by a blind fighter. The barbarian whose totem was a wolf, subsequently became infected with lycanthropy and we had a hell of time as I tried t unmask the fact that she was a werewolf etc. It was a lot of fun.

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The purpose of play for me, is to create a good story, with great roleplaying.

The GM is like a director, with a script that has challanges and a plot, that can be changed by the choices of the PC's who are like the actors, that get to decide their own character's backstory, motivations, and abilities.

My three PC''s and I had probably the best time ever playing an RPG a few weeks ago. After hunting lions in the open steppe, they returned to the nomad trade festival and made a good profit selling the lion pelts, then salted all teh lion meat they got and sold most of that. They went to the inn, where the two troll PC's got a great laugh out of making the nomads and merchants in the inn nervous with their prescense. The one human PC got drunk and found a girl, had some fun, and then convinced her to run away with him, so now he (kind of) has a wife. Then one of the trolls decided to go outside and came upon some goats, and procceded to eat some. The next day they left, fought some elvish raiders, freed some slaves, entered into the service of a nomad sheik, and are going to storm an elven temple in the mountains.

This is the kind of stuff that we in our group think is the purpose of play. We want to go have adventures, tell good stories, have furious and epic battles, and make fun memories that later we can say, "Hey remember that one time when.......".

It wasn't always like this. We have had plenty of bad experiences playing with other groups and people, until recently. Some of which include:

1. GM's who are only interested in leading us by the nose and letting their "awesome, and untouchable" NPC's do all the fun stuff.

2. GM's who suck at telling stories.

3. Players who do nothing, for example:

GM- "Okay its your turn (insert name), what are you going to do?"

PC- "Im going to draw my sword."

GM- "Okay, thats one action, whats next?"

PC- "Thats it."

GM- "You realize your friends are in combat and need your help?"

PC- "Yeah, I know, I'm just going to stand there and look at my sword."

Other PCs- "What the hell man?"

This PC continued to do that for many games.

4. And PCs who cheat at their dice rolls, we had one who had the stupidity to pick up a piece of paper, right in front of us, to cover his dice roll, and then he took a moment to adjust his roll to a critical hit with his hand. He then exclaimed, "CRITICAL HIT!" like we didin't see what he just did.

We stopped going to their games, and no longer invite them to ours. We currently have only 3 PCs and me, the GM, but we have a good time.

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I like games where the players look at each other and that look says "Holy Shit!" because a fact of the game world just dawned on them that was cool, shocking, or scary (or even better: all three!). I like player immersion in games, and I feel that certain reactions (like fear) are a better indicator of immersion that others.

"Tell me what you found, not what you lost" Mesopotamian proverb

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