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Author Topic: Sode #6) Game vs. The Plot  (Read 3727 times)
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Meg
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« on: January 05, 2008, 11:17:21 PM »

It's up!  How do you motivate your players?  What motivates you in a game?
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Jim
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2008, 12:26:11 AM »

Happy BIRTHDAY - Meg!

Again, another nice podcast.  You have a really good mix of 'personalities' and a very thoughtful approach.

IATYQ: First, I make sure the Players have a detailed understanding of their PC - their past, their goals, etc. (of course, this is developed by them, with a little help from me).  I plot the game based on this information and my knowledge of the world (and the realistic reactions and actions of the various NPCs), looking for ways to tie all the various character's motivations together.  Then, I often create a central theme which suits all the goals and lay many, many clues as to what the central theme is until they finally begin to see the central theme as a way for them to meet their personal and group goals.  Then the central theme becomes their group goal and main focus, as well as the clear way for them to reach their personal goals.   
Of course, there are many other minor motivators used along the way, but this is the main motivation method.

(Very simplified) Example from the last game I DMed:
World: Elves, Dwarves, and Humans live in seclusion (they are not enemies, just not friendly).  Half-Elves are not accepted as equals by Elves (although a few live in the land of Elves).  This was not a focal point of the information presented about the world, but it was a predetermined detail of the world that the Players knew about, not focusing on until later in the game whe the central theme became clear.
Players: Two free-thinking Elves who left the Elven Nation to adventure in the world of men.  A Half-Elf who left the Elven Nation to prove herself an equal to Elves.  A Dwarf (NPC) trying to complete a Quest to build relations between Dwarves and Humans.  A Human looking for her place in the world.  Another Human looking for glory.
After looking at their goals and personalities (and after playing for a while) the central theme/group goal becomes: Building bridges between the races.  This eventually became clear to the party, as again and again they discovered that reaching their individual goals would be easier if they focused on this group goal.

It was a LOT more nuanced than that, but - you get the idea (I hope).

For the next 'section/campaign' of the game, the central theme remains the same, but I (near the end of the first game) set up motivations for each character to go in a certain direction at the start.  In the game we are just starting, they are heading to the Elven Lands to hunt down and kill the reoccurring villain from the first game (the Evil sister of one of the Elfs) who (besides trying to slay them all) tortured and killed the Half-Elf's cousin, smeared the name of her Elf brother, tricked the other Elf's girlfriend into leaving him (then screwed him while disguised as the girlfriend), etc.  Slaying this Evil Elf will help reach the central goal, but also their individual goals, as well as fulfilling their individual desires for revenge.  By the end of the next game, I will have everything in place for them to actually fulfill the central theme and end the campaign, although after the original goal of killing the Evil Elf is accomplished - I have no idea which direction they will go!  I just have to trust that they will stay on task.

It's late, I'm tired, I hope that all made sense!
     
« Last Edit: January 08, 2008, 09:31:12 AM by Jim » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2008, 01:17:44 AM »

Pretty good stuff, guys.

Of course now you've got me re-thinking some elements of my game, which does have a little bit of railroading to make some of it work. Some of it is written as starting at the dungeon entrance, ready to go.

And there are points where the players aren't playing their characters, but the bad guy's lackeys.

But from what I gather, you guys want to just look at the map, and be free to go anywhere. Well, what happens if you want to go to Sharn, when the adventure that's planned takes place in Karrnath? Nothing is set for Q'baara, but I just KNOW someone in the group will want to go there.

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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2008, 08:58:09 AM »

Oo, actually, that's a good point Peaboo--

I think there is a very important distinction between a campaign and a "one shot" (even if the one shot is a couple of sessions long-- one adventure). 

I believe- Josh, come on and argue it because I bet you will- that one shots HAVE to have some sort of railroading.  It's one freakin' adventure after all- you can't have PC's say "Nah, let's spend 3 weeks developing our relations in this town"

It's a novel vs. a picturebook.  A picturebook is zoomed way in and focuses on one conflict, resolves it, done.  A novel has the time to develop, spend a chapter writing about a blade of grass, present options and view points.

Personally, I like one shots where it throws you into the middle of the action so to say so players have to hit the ground running.  You can do that with just some great narrative to start the game.

So the "what" the PC's are going to do is set, and needs to be set, but the "how" has to be up to them.  If there is only one way to solve the puzzle, then no thanks. 
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Jim
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2008, 11:28:25 PM »

Oo, actually, that's a good point Peaboo--

I think there is a very important distinction between a campaign and a "one shot" (even if the one shot is a couple of sessions long-- one adventure). 

I believe- Josh, come on and argue it because I bet you will- that one shots HAVE to have some sort of railroading.  It's one freakin' adventure after all- you can't have PC's say "Nah, let's spend 3 weeks developing our relations in this town"

It's a novel vs. a picturebook.  A picturebook is zoomed way in and focuses on one conflict, resolves it, done.  A novel has the time to develop, spend a chapter writing about a blade of grass, present options and view points.

Personally, I like one shots where it throws you into the middle of the action so to say so players have to hit the ground running.  You can do that with just some great narrative to start the game.

So the "what" the PC's are going to do is set, and needs to be set, but the "how" has to be up to them.  If there is only one way to solve the puzzle, then no thanks. 

There are a lot of DMs out there who are imaginative or experienced enough to just play 'off the cuff' if the party goes in an unexpected direction (even in a one shot).
After all, isn't the reason many players go in the opposite direction because they are feeling railroaded and want to wrest a little control from the DM and challenge him/her to become a little looser?  I played under a world-class railroader and I just wanted to scream after being led around the by the nose each game and finally some players just did whatever was the opposite he wanted and I just left and started my own game, stealing all his players on my way out (Ya know, player stealing could be a podcast topic . . . ).  If he had just let the players all get it out of their system, we would have eventually went back and did what he wanted.
Personally, I prefer the long-term, serial, campaign-type game.  If done correctly, it is far superior to a quickie, what with the character development and 'history' it creates.

   
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Josh
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2008, 12:54:42 AM »

Pretty good stuff, guys.

Of course now you've got me re-thinking some elements of my game, which does have a little bit of railroading to make some of it work. Some of it is written as starting at the dungeon entrance, ready to go.

And there are points where the players aren't playing their characters, but the bad guy's lackeys.

But from what I gather, you guys want to just look at the map, and be free to go anywhere. Well, what happens if you want to go to Sharn, when the adventure that's planned takes place in Karrnath? Nothing is set for Q'baara, but I just KNOW someone in the group will want to go there.

Setting up a oneshot is not railroading. 

Railroading would be if the PCs are outside a castle and the rogue wants to climb up a wall and the DM says "the walls are impossible to climb."  Then the player says "I use a grappling hook" and the DM responds "A guard throws the hook back off the wall."  "I use my ring of spider climb", "the walls are special antimagic walls and your ring fails."  And so on.

My issue with, "you start outside the dungeon" would not be that it is railroading, but that it does not inherently initiate action.  You need something more like "you have tracked your quarry through the fireswamp and now stand outside the entrance to a cave.

As for playing the bad guys lackeys...that sound like a cool idea, but why not just play a game about playing the lackeys?  That is the interesting part.

Adventures should have two things 1)A problem 2)Something interesting. 

A game where you play the assistants to the big bad and fight adventures is interesting.  Having adventurers trying to destroy the weather machine is a problem. 
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2008, 12:19:20 PM »

First, wanted to offer a thumbs up to the Brilliants for another enjoyable episode.  Shout outs to Meg for her thoughtful objections.  Zeke manages to horrify me with each of his narrative gems.

The GM has to bring a game to the table.
The Players must be willing to play the game that the GM has prepared.

This is the keystone of the GM-Player contract. 

When you vary the time frame, you vary the intensity with which the two parties have to adhere to the contract. That does not make it railroading.
 
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Jim
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2008, 08:45:50 PM »

So the "what" the PC's are going to do is set, and needs to be set, but the "how" has to be up to them.  If there is only one way to solve the puzzle, then no thanks. 

Absol-freakin-lutley!  Let me share a horror story with you.  There is a very experienced DM I know (I'm talkin' a guys who's been DMing since the first D&D pamphlets came out) who used to force us to sit for HOURS while we tried to come up with THE plan for attack.  Not A plan - THE plan.  HIS plan.  Nothing else would work.  Eventually, we would be so frustrated at his insistance that the answer was OBVIOUS (which it may have been if you were the one who engineered the situation) that we were ready to strangle him.  Some players got really good at analyzing his reactions and fishing for clues, which became a sub-game, but not one I really wanted to play. 
DMs need to step back and let the players decide the HOW.  Bravo, Meg!

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Josh
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2008, 10:40:47 PM »

The GM has to bring a game to the table.
The Players must be willing to play the game that the GM has prepared.

Absolutely correct.  The other side of the issue is:
The GM has to make a game that the players will enjoy
The GM must let the players do the kind of things that they enjoy doing

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