Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Solutions To The Campaign

I meant to talk about addressing the six points in Friday's post, having had the weekend to think about them.  So here goes.

1)  Pace.  The question is, why not simply assign an evening and run the game on skype or some such?  I had considered that, but the fact is the time I have is usually bits and pieces during the day, and the time I do not have is a given evening, even once a month.  Moreover, once a month, or even once every two weeks, doesn't provide me with a distraction on an ongoing basis ... which is something I really liked about the online campaign.  The possibility of thinking through a particular problem once per day, and then enjoying being able to put it off if there was no immediate solution.  Sometimes, I took a day or two to research something that I suddenly invented, and being online gave me the chance to do so on the fly.  This I cannot really do during a real time session.

The slowness of the campaign was not, in itself, a problem.  The problem that I saw was when a character would spend a week doing nothing of any special interest.  I think this would be solved in great degree if the players had specific goals, thereby pushing them to come up with something for their characters to do which moved the game along.  The journey into Switzerland and back did not seem to drag overmuch, except at points where I tried to get clever.  My 'cleverness' is usually a problem in every game I play, whenever I propose a problem no one seems to be able to solve (the Serefina = frightened portion of the campaign).  I am trying to stop myself from doing it.

In a way, doing it in the online campaign, where solving/not solving it took the whole day, I really began to understand what a bad thing this was of my gameplaying.  I've been resolved to stop doing it ever since.

2)  Missed Opportunities.  I guess I'll have to put a much bigger red flag on top of everything.  Rather than saying, "You see a cliff face that extends a thousand feet upwards from the road towards the mountain peaks," I'll have to say instead, "You see a cliff face, exactly the sort of habitat that you know kobalds really love to dwell in whenever there happen to be caves which cannot be seen from the road, extending upwards from the road to the mountain peaks, where dragons are often known to dwell."

It is kind of infantile, but whatever it takes to make the game move a bit more.  Frankly, I hate this sort of thing ... the whole 'rumor' mill that players are supposed to tap into upon entering a town that fuels the adventure machine.  On some level I really feel that if players want to stumble ignorantly and blindly through a world for session after session, then like people who aren't proactive in real life, they should just age and die.  Maybe I'll institute a rule that says whenever players spend a day without any actual plan, a week or a month of game time goes by.  (For my offline games, this might be one of those awful hours spent as a DM when the players all sit around saying, 'I don't know, what do you want to do?' ad nauseum).  One way or the other, I can see pabulum-feeding may be in order.

3)  Exhaustion.  Since I'm not likely to cut down on my exposition, as this is an important part of the game for me, my only real solution to this is to pace myself a little better.  Like Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, I may take every third week off or something when I am feeling pressured.  Alternately, I may push for more hands on DMing ... maybe turning to a live interaction when a lot of information could be relayed more quickly, or when a question-answering session is in order.  This would be spontaneous I think, and not an attendance requirement ... but it might help get things moving a bit better in places.  Jeez, I suppose that means google + (shudder).

4)  Lack of Engagement.  Okay, this is the player's problem.  The best I can do is toss people who are clearly not trying.  I worried quite a lot about this, since it is cold and heartless, and therefore not comfortable for a big fuzzy teddy bear like me, but the poll more than clearly indicates that people would prefer cold and heartless where it comes to their games as opposed a forgiving attitude.  There's probably a post I could write about how people don't want to work as a DM because the game is 'fun' but they're more than willing to be assholes when it comes to telling players how to act or pick up their feet.  But I'm not going to write it today.

The best I can do beside this is to create a questionaire that selects people according to their willingness to write a lot, research shit that they maybe don't already know, answer questions about AD&D issues and sociological qualms they might have about being booted.  Put the fear o' Gawd in'o 'em, an' flay 'em fust afore lettin' 'em in.

5)  Timing.  I'm sorry, but it is going to have to be full 24-hour access to a computer and the power to post on that computer.  The game can drift into certain times of the day and certain habits, but there's just no way to play around someone who can't get on the computer for 10 hours of the day.  Get a cell phone and learn to text, and then at least you can squeeze in a couple of lines here and there; make arrangements to get that information somehow online so it can be viewed by one of the other players who can be a proxy for you when you yourself don't have a computer.  Call in by phone and spend hundreds of dollars if you have to, but make it so.  If you have a job that is physical and you don't even see a computer for most of the day, you have my sympathy but it just isn't doable.  We can manage around meetings, your workout, a bad day at the office, sex with your partner for five hours at a time and a dozen other issues, but absolute non-existence for two thirds of every day, including sleep?  Sorry.  Let me know when your circumstances change.

6)  Lack of Purpose.  This is the killer.  I know not every player can have the same purpose, and most of you won't get to do what you want, but the rules are going to be as follows:

First, that you have some purpose you'd like to accomplish before playing.
Second, that you are absolutely willing to try somebody else's purpose.

In other words, have an idea, but don't get married to that idea.  I'm going to need a party that all wants to do the same thing at the outset, so be prepared to negotiate.  That's all I'm saying.


Those are the points.  I'm still figuring out the questionaire, so any comments on that or any of the above points would be helpful.


Carl said...


Skype? Now you're talking. I can do a once-a-week game over Skype, depending on the schedule, of course.

I have a subscription to Skype that allows me to do multi-party teleconferencing. I'm happy to share that so that you can run a remote game. Alternately, Google+ has a multi-party VTC feature, too, but I haven't used it so I don't know if it's viable for a D&D game or not.

You've expressed interest in playing in my game over Skype in the past. I have serious concerns about one of my players and you getting along initially, due to a topic that you two pretty much declared each other enemies over on my former blog. I'm pretty sure that given the right circumstances you guys could be friendly, but I don't know if I can create those circumstances over a Video Teleconferencing (VTC) conncetion.

I'll watch this topic for updates.


Alexis said...

Apparently, Carl, you totally missed where I said I didn't want to run the game in that fashion.

Nice that you and he know who I am, but that I am third man out. I don't remember declaring anyone my 'enemy' on your blog or anywhere else, so you've got me.

I kind of knew you'd jump on the google+ comment. Again, you seem to have missed the part where I shuddered.

Butch said...

1) Pace. Let's face it, we are sacrificing speed for convenience. Online is simply slower than tabletop. You lose some of the spontaneity -- the rapidfire exchange of ideas, the poor decision made in haste, the brilliantly timed joke, the angry outburst. But there are advantages as well. Being able to reflect on a problem, to read and re-read a long exposition at your own pace (and even look up an obscure reference, or do more research when the inspiration strikes), to take the time to write clever passages of your own... it's just different, in some ways better, in some ways worse, and we'll have to accept that.

2) Missed Opportunities. I think this is related to the other part of Pace, the lack of specific goals. Perhaps the best way to tackle it would be to have, yes, some pablum feeding, at least initially, to keep the game moving.

3) Exhaustion. This is the reason why there are far more people who want to play online than there are people who want to DM online. It's a lot of work and we all appreciate it, whether we are playing or merely observing. If two weeks on and one week off works, great. If an occasional "live" session keeps things fresh for you, I'm all for it. DM burn out has killed many a campaign and it has to be avoided.

4) Lack of Engagement and 5) Timing. I feel these are related and are what inspired my "contract" comment. Perhaps the contract and the questionaire are just two sides of the same coin and you don't need to do both. In any event, everyone is better off if you specifically state what is required/expected of players, so you don't feel as bad about booting them if they don't measure up.

6) Lack of Purpose. Similar to #2. I think hand-feeding the players some goals/objectives will solve this problem, again, at least initially. Of course, some players will be at odds, even if tackling the same goal -- the thief may (should) have a different plan than the paladin. But that's part of the fun of roleplaying.

Alexis said...

My early experience suggests that if you are hand-fed to begin with, you will adapt to being hand-fed and it will never stop.

Offhand, I have to think that if you're the kind of player that has to be hand-fed, you're the wrong player. Eric's suggestion on the previous campaign post that I create a few suggested scenarios ... well, let's see. You, the potential player, have the same access to the game, world history, personal experience with the world, etcetera, that I have.

YOU come up with a few scenarios you'd like to play.

The reason players don't is because they assume the DM won't play a certain thing. Apart from fanciful concepts, if you keep it real, I might surprise you with my adaptability.

Carl said...

You're right. I got all excited when you mentioned Skype and missed the part about how you said that you weren't going to do that because you're looking for something to do in bits and pieces during the day -- an ongoing distraction.

Regarding my friend and player, Jason, you may not remember because it was a while ago and possibly because you thought nothing of the interaction at the time. The discussion quickly became heated and I put an end to it.

Butch said...

Maybe what's needed, then, is for the players, or some of the players, to communicate via email amongst themselves -- not using up campaign time to do so -- where they identify some goals (short-, medium-, and long-term). Even if those plans promptly blow up, at least they are working together toward something.

Oddbit said...

Setting a goal for your character isn't actually unheard of. In addition, many GMs in RPOL take the time to ask for sample writing, ask about multiple character concepts, ask for specific traits of your characters backgrounds and possibly even full written backgrounds. Furthermore some detail goal items, as well as short term and long term goals.

I think pacing and exhaustion are the biggest killers myself. A good few of the games being lost at the first combat or shortly thereafter. One technique could be to keep the combats short and sweet. Hit and runs, highly offensive and low defenses or just plain one sided. Or you could spread them out, and try to time them for either IM sessions, voice or other situations like such, since they tend to be the most quick information intensive.

Alexis said...

Don't want background because your stats provide that according to my system. But goal details would be nice.

We had a few combats; not too much trouble if you run them very OD&D style, not the way I usually do, as I showed with the combat simulation last spring.