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Archlyte

Group Implosion and Video Games

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I have noticed a trend when playing with players who have a strong background in playing video games vs. starting with TTRPG. In video games like KOTOR or any other game where you have companions and a main character that you control, the cutscenes often allow for you to choose choices in which you are being an a-hole to your companions as a way of affirming the Player as the main character. The companions are written to not bite back too much, and the cutscenes often resolve with the main character basically putting the companions in their place. This is to say nothing of things like GTA or other Scarface type stories where the character is just engaging in anti-social behavior by rote.  Also, in a video game the paths forward are extremely limited, and the product is a money making enterprise so you cannot have your Male aged 13-25 customer feeling unsatisfied a product having a lot of consequences for anti-social behavior toward other characters. In the end you can be a total ****** for 20+ hours of play and still save the galaxy just fine.  

I'm noticing that I keep getting these players from that background who hit the ground in the group attempting to show how much of a dik they can be. 

The excuse is always that it is interesting to have conflict and tension. My stance is that a little goes a long way, and that all of the party conflict reduces the focus on the larger story. 

Suicide Squad was a movie that spent most of its runtime focusing on the characters having conflict and attempting to show how edgy they are in both flashbacks and current scenes. The result was a movie that had its main story as a sideshow so that when you got to the climax of the movie it was nothing that you really cared about because it had hardly any time devoted to it. They had to work in the party conflict arc into the denouement because it was basically the focus of the movie. 

I have seen too many parties tear themselves apart or kill each other to allow players to engage in evil groups. In short, it's a waste of character creation effort because they always separate or kill each other in short order. One of the things I admire about FFG's approach is that they haven't wasted much time or effort on attempting to anthropomorphize the bad guys. Story is an ancient thing and it is pretty solidly centered around the idea of an Archplot, or a story in which a main character successfully resolves something to a positive end (the heroes journey). The Mini Plot is a different form built around internal conflict, and without internal monologue or being able to show the actor registering this through scenes it's basically not something that works most of the time in TTRPGs. The Anti-Plot is the thing I see most in games around tables: the protagonists don't change (other than mechanical progression), the plot is fractured and incoherent. 

If you are trying to get a Star Wars style Archplot going and the players are focusing on the fact that they want to bicker and PvP with each other more than they want to destroy the Death Star despite fast pacing and action, they are focused differently than what protagonists in an Archplot Story would be. 

I would like to ask for opinions about how much you think Video Game writing has influenced how people play RPGs given that the goals of a video game writer are different in some ways than a TTRPG GM. Also, can you elaborate on how you keep the focus on the things trying to kill the party versus the party focusing on wanting to abuse or kill each other. I have my methods but I wanted to see how other people handle this dilemma. Thanks for any polite responses :)

 

 

Edited by Archlyte

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This is exactly what broke my last group. One player was new to tabletop, but had a lifetime of video game RPG experience. She did not adapt well to working in a group, and played her character like she was going for the highest negative karma in a Fallout game. Trying to have earnest talks about it only curbed it a little, but lead to her just not engaging as much and sending her character off to lone wolf things.

I always ask what the player's goals are, and what their character's goals are, and try to work all of that into the game- even if it doesn't happen every session. I try to spotlight at least one character, if not more, every session, and she definitely had her fair share of spotlight scenes and moments. The problems seemed to emerge whenever it wasn't her spotlight scene or self-imposed lone wolf sidequest. I did my best to try to engage her with Rebellion intrigue and we even reworked her character to better fit what she wanted out of the game. We were playing EotE, and I think she would rather play AoR. In the end, it was bad fit and every session left a bad taste in my mouth as I mostly spent my time trying to keep her from just killing every NPC when they didn't do what she wanted. At  a certain point I decided that the labor was too much and stopped scheduling games (we were playing at her place, and another player was her partner, so we essentially lost half of the group).

Talking with her about it was my first step, and best advice.  She was definitely approaching it like it was a single player video game RPG. Once I realized this, we talked about it. I thought her playstyle would adapt after the talk, but it really didn't. Honestly, there was more going on than just her approaching it like a video game.

A solid session zero is also essential to being proactive, rather than reactive, to situations like this. If you know the player's goals and the character's goals beforehand, you can play to those. I find positive reinforcement is much better than punishing a player or character, and I try to make my games about their goals. I also ask  each player to come up with two bonds (RP backstory), and at least one has to be to another character. When you have a good session zero that covers things like that, your players are basically telling you what kind of game they want to play and what kind of hero (or scoundrel) they want to be. You are also assuring them that you are going to make sure those things show up in-game at some point.

And lastly, don't be afraid to cut your losses and ask a player to leave a game. If nothing else is working and you're dreading sessions because of one or more players, consider that it might not be worth the labor to force it.  I've had to do it, and it sucks, but it is possible to do it with empathy and sincerity and with everyone's dignity and friendships intact.

Edited by panpolyqueergeek

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45 minutes ago, panpolyqueergeek said:

A solid session zero is also essential to being proactive, rather than reactive, to situations like this. If you know the player's goals and the character's goals beforehand, you can play to those. I find positive reinforcement is much better than punishing a player or character, and I try to make my games about their goals. I also ask  each player to come up with two bonds (RP backstory), and at least one has to be to another character. When you have a good session zero that covers things like that, your players are basically telling you what kind of game they want to play and what kind of hero (or scoundrel) they want to be. You are also assuring them that you are going to make sure those things show up in-game at some point.

This is pretty much the best way to handle it: do it up front, and stick to it. Reward the player for playing as part of the group, but try to avoid punishing them if they struggle with it. I was lucky that I had a player in my longest campaign that, from the beginning, knew how to model this kind of play for everyone. They followed her from the word go. In fact, I later had to struggle to disentangle everyone's individual stories from hers, just so they could get their chance in the spotlight.

About the only thing I'd emphasize differently is that, in your first session, find a way to work in some part of everyone's backstory. In an Edge of the Empire game, thread as many Obligations into the story as you can. In Age of Rebellion, have their first mission involve everyone's Duty. In Force and Destiny, invoke and challenge everyone's Emotional Strengths and Weaknesses. If there are players whose core mechanics just don't fit with whatever you have planned—and you can't change your plans for some reason—at least gear their involvement towards their Motivations. That's the quickest way to prove that you'll use what they give you, which means they'll get as much out of the game as they're willing to put in.

And that one player you couldn't work into the first session? Pull them aside, either before the game or immediately after, and apologize and explain (without giving your story away) why you couldn't get their Obligation/Duty/Morality to work. Then promise that their thing will be coming up in the next session or two. And make sure that actually happens.

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3 hours ago, Archlyte said:

I would like to ask for opinions about how much you think Video Game writing has influenced how people play RPGs

IMHO, almost none.  I've been playing RPGs since the latest and greatest video game was the original Super Mario Brothers, and problem players like you're describing have always been a scourge on the hobby. 

 

3 hours ago, Archlyte said:

Also, can you elaborate on how you keep the focus on the things trying to kill the party versus the party focusing on wanting to abuse or kill each other.

I make it clear up front that our group doesn't tolerate that crap.  If they do it anyway, they get one out-of-game talk; then they don't get invited back anymore.  

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PC on PC conflict definitely belongs into SW. Betrayals, physical violence between friends and lovers,  and even attempted murder are all part of the SW story.  But it needs to be clear to everyone involved whether that stuff is on the table or not . The players don't get to trick or annoy each other,  only the PCs do.

 

That said, there are games that explicitly incorporate PC vs PC conflicts, and Edge of the Empire,  etc isn't among them. Better use another game if you want support for that sort of cooperative storytelling.  And for Zeus' sake don't blur the line between PC and player when you play those games. There's a reason the good ones all stress that conflicts happen between PCs,  not players.

 

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6 hours ago, Archlyte said:

I would like to ask for opinions about how much you think Video Game writing has influenced how people play RPGs given that the goals of a video game writer are different in some ways than a TTRPG GM. Also, can you elaborate on how you keep the focus on the things trying to kill the party versus the party focusing on wanting to abuse or kill each other. I have my methods but I wanted to see how other people handle this dilemma. Thanks for any polite responses :)

In short, I don't feel like there is a direct correlation between intraparty conflict and their experience with video games. In my experience, this is usually the result of a lack of communication. I've found that when I have these types if issues, it's my fault. Either from lack of clarity in what I as a GM expect, or the same for what the group is comfortable with. (Obviously, this isn't always true for everyone. It's just something I've noticed in my games.)

I heartily agree with @panpolyqueergeek. A good session zero will generally stop these problems before they can occur. I've found that generating their characters together helps tie them together and can give them a reason to want each other to succeed.

As far as how my group deals with it... We generaly talk with the problem player(s) before any actions are taken. The few times things like this have occurred (when they were not my fault), were due to out of game issues. 

Good communication is the key to avoiding issues like this, IMO.

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7 hours ago, Vorzakk said:

IMHO, almost none.  I've been playing RPGs since the latest and greatest video game was the original Super Mario Brothers, and problem players like you're describing have always been a scourge on the hobby. 

 

I make it clear up front that our group doesn't tolerate that crap.  If they do it anyway, they get one out-of-game talk; then they don't get invited back anymore.  

I should say that I have never been a fan of blame x for x in the case of electronic games, but I just seemed to be finding too high of a rate of incidence with the players I have been playing with who came first from ERPGs and then to Tabletop. My main thought here is simply that the form of the computer RPGs are very similar in that they have to use conflict with the NPCs to keep the player from thinking about how solidly they are on a set of rails. Computer games are rarely very divergent in their end story and I have never seen one that actually stops because the main character isn't respectful to the NPC companions. If this was your model for what is cool in RPGs why would you not try to emulate it in play with real people? I asked my players who have acted this way and they didn't seem to find my theory offensive and agreed that they like to put conflict in because they felt it was necessary in any RPG story. 

I agree that before these games mayhem was in no short order lol, and I agree with you that players turning on each other is nothing new, but this was a splinter behavior that is couched in an old form, like you said it's always been there. 

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My experience in these forums is that GMs suffer from it far more than PCs, as there is always a steady drumbeat of threads along the line of 'how do I make it so my boss Nemesis survives the damage my PCs can dish out?', which invariably leads me and others to point out to the GMs in question they need to stop structuring their games like an MMO with a 40 man raid mentality.

Obviously I only have my own table to to judge, but my crew tends to make their characters with basic motivations and then they dev their 'character' through play.  I've got early 20s through 50s at my table, I see no generational differences.

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Not sure if that applies to the situation I described but it seems like good advice. I love that when characters come to life in play and I don't need people to write novels about their characters. What I don't like is when the characters are used tele novella style to drum up a bunch of drama about incidental stuff that drags out scenes and when I ask them if they got that from ERPGs they say, Yes I did. lol

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Session Zero: tell the players what you expect of them and what you expect of the game. I have told players that I expect them to work together in order to beat the Big Bad Guy or solve the mystery. 

You're literally playing Star Wars. It should not be a creative strain for them to emulate the hero characters they've seen for years on the screen.

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On ‎7‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 1:12 AM, 2P51 said:

My experience in these forums is that GMs suffer from it far more than PCs, as there is always a steady drumbeat of threads along the line of 'how do I make it so my boss Nemesis survives the damage my PCs can dish out?', which invariably leads me and others to point out to the GMs in question they need to stop structuring their games like an MMO with a 40 man raid mentality.

Obviously I only have my own table to to judge, but my crew tends to make their characters with basic motivations and then they dev their 'character' through play.  I've got early 20s through 50s at my table, I see no generational differences.

To an extent this is applicable to a lot of people with RPG experience, especially players of the 800lbs dragon in the room. It's pretty typical for game systems to expect the players to go up against a solo super-powered warchief/dragon/lich/vampire count or other such mega-baddy that's so OP his whole purpose of existence is to solo the party. Since that colors expectations they show up here and assume "Oh, a Nemesis is so OP he can solo the party because he is a Nemesis." Which we know isn't true.

Its really only when you sit down and see the films the game is trying to emulate you realize how not-so-OP a Nemesis is. And as silly as it sounds, no one seems to ever sit down and watch the films, instead just going off memory. I mean, the "players" in Star Wars seriously face off against Vader what? Three times? And they easily defeat him the first time, do a disadvantaged 1-on-1 the second, and defeat him in a 1-on-1 pretty soundly the final time. 

Heck, they only even SEE Vader maybe 4 or 5 other times depending on how you count...

It's just as much a problem with the setting as the adventure format. In D&D the BBEG is a nasty with an AC so high the players cant touch him, so he can show up to personally deliver exposition without fear of reprisal. Now take a guy that's used to doing that and tell him to write the adventure so you hardly ever see the BBEG, but still want to deliver the same level of fear the invincible Lich could... yeah that's tough.

 

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1 hour ago, Ghostofman said:

To an extent this is applicable to a lot of people with RPG experience, especially players of the 800lbs dragon in the room. It's pretty typical for game systems to expect the players to go up against a solo super-powered warchief/dragon/lich/vampire count or other such mega-baddy that's so OP his whole purpose of existence is to solo the party. Since that colors expectations they show up here and assume "Oh, a Nemesis is so OP he can solo the party because he is a Nemesis." Which we know isn't true.

Its really only when you sit down and see the films the game is trying to emulate you realize how not-so-OP a Nemesis is. And as silly as it sounds, no one seems to ever sit down and watch the films, instead just going off memory. I mean, the "players" in Star Wars seriously face off against Vader what? Three times? And they easily defeat him the first time, do a disadvantaged 1-on-1 the second, and defeat him in a 1-on-1 pretty soundly the final time. 

Heck, they only even SEE Vader maybe 4 or 5 other times depending on how you count...

It's just as much a problem with the setting as the adventure format. In D&D the BBEG is a nasty with an AC so high the players cant touch him, so he can show up to personally deliver exposition without fear of reprisal. Now take a guy that's used to doing that and tell him to write the adventure so you hardly ever see the BBEG, but still want to deliver the same level of fear the invincible Lich could... yeah that's tough.

 

Your experiences with D&D are very different from my own. Situations where the main villain was an overpowered challenge for the entire group were more the exception than the norm, but play styles differ considerably from group to group (and there have always been far more D&D groups out there than SW gaming groups).

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37 minutes ago, HappyDaze said:

Your experiences with D&D are very different from my own. Situations where the main villain was an overpowered challenge for the entire group were more the exception than the norm, but play styles differ considerably from group to group (and there have always been far more D&D groups out there than SW gaming groups).

My experiences are pretty varied. Narrative game that takes place where it takes place, yeah about like Star Wars. Narrative light Dungeon crawl... Here's a single big monster, all five of you go kill it and take it's stuff.

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True story from last week:

It's a D&D (kinda) setting and about half of the players are new to the hobby and all of us play computer RPG's.  The PC's are all level 1 - 2 at this point.

The group is just wrapping up an encounter with half of the group interrogating a goblin.  We are tasked with rescuing a girl from a goblin stronghold and they're looking for intel.

(btw my character was walking point and was out ahead of the group between the interrogation & the stronghold (now in view)).

Newer PC has their character pass my character and advance toward the stronghold (without any actionable intel) and stumbles across a bear.

The Bear issues a warning growl.

THAT PC (now very much alone) returns with an equally fierce growl and advances on the bear!

 

And today 1/3 of the group is dead and some of the rest of the group are badly mauled.  Luckily, the group was able to overcome the bear (but it was a tough fight).

That bear was clearly a BBEG and we should NOT have poked the bear.

It is anecdotal evidence that actually supports the OP.  That young player was clearly influenced by CRaP G(ame)'s and has only recently begun playing Table Top RPG's.  That character has been behaving suicidal for weeks with similar encounters.

 

And if nothing else, it's a fun anecdote.

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When I have a player like that I always remember people around the table that I'll show no mercy for characters whatever they do or act. If a character should die I won't save him/her from death. Never ! There's no re-spawn nor game-save and resurrection is extremely difficult to get from a npc. My games are always gritty whatever the RPG we play. Once they had one or two characters killed because of being stupid and / or selfish, players get the message and understand they need to play for each other and not against each other to survive.

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In the next session I removed all of the points of contention between the characters by doing a bit of a combination of deleting a scene and skipping the group ahead. The players in the previous session who had been most engaged in the conflict with one another seemed to focus on the bigger events, but I could tell they were a bit lost as to what to do without the capability to engage in the conflict with one another.

As this was driven by dialogue I was obliged to examine how they were using dialogue to promote and achieve their conflict.

  1. Nagging: I noticed afterward that a lot of the conflict came from characters complaining in an insulting manner about the other character's actions or dialogue. The actual mechanism was often for the player to make some observation in character about a mundane detail, recognize that this was kind of boring, and try to spice it up with complaining about another character. They would do things like acknowledging something while always throwing in some little sleight, the effects of which were cumulative. I explained to the players that a little goes a long way with this kind of thing, and to watch how it is done in the movies. We don't have to listen to Leia complaining about the Death Star rescue mistakes for 45 minutes. 
  2. No Emphasis on Building the group: the emphasis was on tearing it down or establishing dominance. I explained to the players that the Threats led to more threats or other bickering which was a time stealer. I feel that there is time later in the campaign to explore the characters once we actually know them a bit. Go along to get along for now was my suggestion so that the game can proceed a bit and if later on they characters need to have some tension then that is ok as long as it is makes sense and doesn't derail the whole game. 
  3. NPCs and PCs aren't the punching bags and ego stepping stones like they are in Video Games. I explained to the players that the world will react to them if they prove themselves to be a pathogen that starts killing or degrading everything in sight. We talked about how video games are largely static things due to the programmed nature of the things, and that unlike TTRPGs which have an infinite interface, cannot respond appropriately to things that players do much of the time and will just run on as if nothing had happened. The verbal abuse thing seems to very often lead to the physical abuse thing, and once we came to an understanding about this things were much better I think. We also talked about how if an audience was watching would they consider your character a Hero or a Villain based on how you act. 

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