Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Needing a Tiger

Before starting this post, I want to apologize for the unavailability of the Senex campaign blog on line. Several blog participants, including those who played the cleric Andrej and the bard Delfig, have revised their nicks on the blog to "Anonymous," as clearly they are not enjoying the deconstruction that these posts are offering.  This was done without any heads up to me.  Since I do not want to lose the content entirely, by having one or the other systematically go through and destroy content, I have removed the blog from public availability.

These are relevant further into today's post.  I'm just putting them here as a teaser.

Let's talk about hooks that don't work.  On the whole, this post will be about why ideas I had didn't pan out, and why that was my fault.

Hook #1

Let's start with a situation from 2010, which for some reason managed to hook a lot of readers, but not the players themselves.  The players were moving along a road in southern Switzerland, when they hear a scraping sound nearby.  Andrej hears a scraping sound that suggests metal scraping on rock.  When investigating, they arouse the attention of a hippogriff, hiding among the rocks above them:
DM: Andrej catches sight of something big - and black - about ten yards up the mountain from where he's standing right now; Avel is about halfway between Andrej and the wagon, and Delfig and Serafina a few yards further away than Avel.
Its body has the appearance of an emaciated horse, showing ribs, covered with dark grey hair, long and matted in clumps over its body. The front legs extend so as to be horse like, but end in hooves that are longer and more narrow than a horse's hooves, claw-like but falling short of being claws. The head of the animal is predictably avian - except that it is the head of a large, black crow, with sleek feathers, a strong, slightly hooked beak.
It is a fair guess that it is one of a many breeds of hippogriff - the animal is not limited to eagles, when mixed with birds.

The party engages with the hippogriff, damage is done back and forth.  The beast is seriously hurt, so it flies away; the party licks their wounds.  As my experience system does not require the actual death of the opponent, the party picks up some experience.  In the character department, I was able to demonstrate that the woman attending the party, the bride the party was sent to fetch for their benefactor, was able to look after herself pretty well.  The encounter was exciting and threatening enough; and the player fell for the hook afterwards ... or so I thought.

continued elsewhere ...

This is the second of two such posts I will be writing in the month of May for the Tao's Master Class blog, where the rest of this post can be found. Examples on the Tao of D&D blog can be found here and here.

To see the rest of this post, you must pledge at least $3 to my Patreon account. This will enable you to see all material to date on the Master Class, but you must do it soon if you wish to see this post before July 1st! June 1st is the day after tomorrow, and you must pledge $3 in the next 24 hours if you want to catch Patreon before the window closes.

Because it is difficult to keep track of who is donating $3 to me each month, I am no longer accepting small direct donations for the Master Class blog.


Lothar Svensson said...

This is a really good post, and one that addresses very well an issue that I've been wrestling with myself in my home campaign. I didn't know that it was this issue until I read the post, but it's certainly helped me reframe my perspective on the situation. I'm also examining a bit closer my own tendencies as a player, and considering what kind of player I am. Well done, very much worth a read.

James Clark said...

Alexis, Andrej here. I have done no such thing for no reason that you assume above and have no idea what you're talking about. Consider any help that I can provide in fixing the situation offered to you.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Every Andrej comment now lists as "Anonymous" throughout the blog, as does every Delfig, Melchior and Avel comment. Lukas and Ahmet are untouched. I am making the most obvious connection: that players are removing their content.

James Clark said...

Is this a problem with the entire campaign or older posts only? I lost access to the original Andrej account and had to make a new one when we resumed play some years ago, you may recall. Could it be that Blogger deleted the old accounts (original Andrej, Delfig, etc..) after years of inactivity? I can still access my 2nd, more recent Andrej blog, but wouldn't know where to start with the old one:

Alexis Smolensk said...

Every post. And they were all there on May 17th. Sophia is still present.

James Clark said...

I’m sorry that it happened, but have nothing to do with it as far as I’m aware. If you can figure out anyway I can help please let me know.

Tim said...

I like how you’ve changed the carrot-stick to a watch-tiger. As much as the emphasis of the post touches on how much introducing a tiger could contribute to railroading, I feel the tiger provides you with two things that don’t make it a clear cut example of railroading.

First, the tiger can be reasonably understood to have an intelligence of its own distinct from the DM (over a stick); if the tiger is introduced as a rational further element of the environment, your culpability is perhaps diminished (even though you’re playing the tiger) and it offers a danger that does not necessarily have only one way of being defeated (i.e. running to the watch).

The second thing is that danger is so critical because of the emotional weight it has. If our goal is to affect the players’ emotions, then stress should rightly be a presence in each decision, since it can force a decision and push the players to engage. I mean, you can’t make every decision stressful but I think these two situations both had stressors affecting the players in other ways.
Concern over the bride-to-be, in the first case, seems to have weakened the players’ willingness to take a new risk. In the second case, the problem seems quite different, like the players didn’t feel they saw the reward as meaningful enough given the risk; I’m not sure forcing them to engage would have necessarily worked in that case (perhaps if beforehand they had found some goblinlike creatures feasting on luxurious stolen bighorn sheep?)

As for the missing blog posts, an easy way to see if the deletions are intentional (which would be strange) is to check for the character blogs or Blogger profiles in Blogger. If all posts are missing the accounts probably were deactivated somehow; you can check the time between the last post made by the account and the likely date of deactivation and see if you get a round number. A Google employee claims they don’t remove Blogger accounts due to inactivity back in 2013, but it’s possible things could have changed since then with the GDPR.

Justin Kennedy said...

You are going to make a book out of these posts, aren't you Alexis?

They're so interesting and, being grounded in real examples of gameplay, concrete. Any DM who has a session count into the double digits can't help but nod along.

Seriously readers, $1.50 per post is excellent value for any DM (and frankly still good value for a player interested in improving their play and avoiding common pitfalls) and think! You also get the wonderful feeling of supporting *the* most progressive/transgressive RPG intellectual on the market today.

Pony up the cash. The part of the posts hidden behind the paywall contain the real lessons.

Daniel Oliveira said...

All those comments are listed as "Anonymous" because Blogger keeps them "bonded" to the e-mail adress the poster used. If they, many years later, delete that e-mail account, or if it gets deleted due to inactivity, all the comments will turn to "Anonymous".

Yeah, it sucks.

Hope that you put the Campaign Senex blog back online. I've found your blog 40-something days ago and I'm reading it all, chronologically, from the very start. So I'm fucking curious to finish reading the campaign.

Greetings from Brazil.