Help with new gaming group?

edited September 2011 in Play Advice
Hi guys,

I recently moved back to my hometown. Some of my old friends are either still around or have moved back as well. We are trying to play games, but we seem to have clashing objectives.

One of my friends is not a gamer at all, but she wants to be. I am terrible at teaching rules. I usually give the rules a few skims and a solid reading, but in play I forget all the crap I've read and have to flip pages for half an hour before I can explain even the basics of a game. Most recently this happened with Remember Tomorrow, when I couldn't seem to remember a thing about choosing and resolving scenes. So my first query is: how do you teach games to non-gamers? How do you teach games to gamers? Do you have a unified game-teaching theory?

A second friend doesn't take anything seriously. In his mind he is playing a game, and games are not serious business. I don't regard them as serious business either, but I can play comedic scene or serious scenes. He seems to have a metagame level of comedy that exists outside of the game. For example, he made an NPC Faction that was a government agency called NSFW (National Security Foundation, Washington). I thought it was a clever joke, but not something I wanted built into the game. I also don't want to tell him his contributions don't count--that's unfair. If he likes things comedic, that's just how he is. I'm merely wondering how to get him to consider trying a new way of playing, to see if he likes it.

He also regards new things with a great deal of skepticism. He plays D&D infrequently, and to him that's the only RPG there is. The rest of it is rubbish that he considers only because he's my friend. And he is my friend! A very close friend. I appreciate his sense of humor and what he brings to the table, he just tends to disrupt things a lot.

He also doesn't get heavily invested in the games we play. Getting him to buy in is difficult. If he bought into the game fully and brought his comedic sensibilities to bear, I could see it producing fun and exciting play at the table. As it is, he just fidgets with the dice until his turn comes up, and then tries to make up something hilarious on the spot. He tries to hard to be funny, and in some cases it's hilarious, and it some cases it just makes for poor scenes. He did manage to frame a good scene in our Remember Tomorrow game where he won an argument with his boss (he was a corporate wage-slave), and decided that meant he lost his "Burnt Out' negative condition. It was a great scene, he enjoyed it, and it was serious as it needed to be while at the same time very amusing. I would love to see all his scenes be like that--he has a powerful eye for satire.

How would you suggest I reconcile my desire (serious gameplay that absolutely does not preclude comedy or table talk, just moderation in all things) vs his desires (the social aspect of playing games, making up funny stories, skeptical about games that aren't D&D)? I don't want to force him to do anything, I just want to make a balanced and honest attempt to teach him say, Story Now play, and see what he thinks about it. He'll go along with pretty much anything. He doesn't like to make waves, so when we want to play a game he'll go along with it even if he doesn't like him. I want him to buy in and speak up for himself! I want to take what I enjoy about gaming and share it with him, and I want him to do the same. If he doesn't want to play a game, then I don't want to play that game.

I'm going to stop here because now I am babbling. If you would offer advice and ask me questions to hone my problem down to an advisable state, I would be greatly appreciative.

Thanks guys!

Comments

  • Well, have you talked to him about all of this?
  • Yup! But only in a shallow, exploratory capacity. I'm not quite sure what to say! He isn't very receptive to... something, either my way of talking about these sorts of things or something else. The discussions tend to awkwardly peter out.
  • I've got a local group of guys that are like that. So, I have a simple rule. Don't do serious or horror games with them. It will always go wrong. Mind you, they're funny guys. They're just wired for Inspectres and Paranoia rather than Ocean or Sorcerer.
  • I would take that as your answer, then.
  • edited September 2011
    Assuming you've tried chatting about it, I'd play awesome games of Inspectres with that dude and serious stuff with other people.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyI would take that as your answer, then.
    Thanks for being so helpful!

    Speaking un-passive-aggresively, I'm here for discussion. Not a one-liner, clever though they may be.
  • Posted By: zircherI've got a local group of guys that are like that. So, I have a simple rule. Don't do serious or horror games with them. It willalwaysgo wrong. Mind you, they're funny guys. They're just wired for Inspectres and Paranoia rather than Ocean or Sorcerer.
    Posted By: noclueAssuming you've tried chatting about it, I'd play awesome games of Inspectres with that dude and serious stuff with other people.
    You're probably right, but I wonder if there is an easy way to have a serious attempt at playing the games I like with him, just to see if it's really the case that he's not interested. He won't answer the questions point-blank-like, so it takes a bit of doing to get an honest answer out of him. He just wants to have fun and have other people have fun, and that's the end of his thought process. I think he imagines that if he's having fun, everyone must being have fun, and vice versa. This makes it hard to tease apart what's going on.
  • edited September 2011
    Why does it bother you so?
  • Does he like serious or semi-serious movies?

    If yes, find a serious movie you both like and would want to roleplay. Watch the movie together, talk about trying to emulate the movie's tone and style, then make characters and start playing.

    I would also recommend playing in a small group. Maybe 3 players. I know people (and maybe your friend isn't like this at all) who are more serious the less players there are. Less players means less time between turns. More spotlight time means you have more time to be funny and serious. Sometimes people need to be funny first, serious second. If you don't have a lot of spotlight time, you may never get past the funny phase.

    In terms of teaching rules, maybe start with something small, simple, and D&D like. I HIGHLY recommend Dungeon World. It has become my go to game when playing with my old high school friends. Dungeon World's reference sheets make it easier to remember rules since you don't have to flip through the book.

    If you still have problems learning Dungeon World, email the designers, offer to pay them in exchange for teaching you the rules via video conferencing. You can use Google Plus Hangouts or Skype.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: jenskotDoes he like serious or semi-serious movies?

    If yes, find a serious movie you both like and would want to roleplay. Watch the movie together, talk about trying to emulate the movie's tone and style, then make characters and start playing.

    I would also recommend playing in a small group. Maybe 3 players. I know people (and maybe your friend isn't like this at all) who are more serious the less players there are. Less players means less time between turns. More spotlight time means you have more time to be funny and serious. Sometimes people need to be funny first, serious second. If you don't have a lot of spotlight time, you may never get past the funny phase.

    In terms of teaching rules, maybe start with something small, simple, and D&D like. I HIGHLY recommend Dungeon World. It has become my go to game when playing with my old high school friends. Dungeon World's reference sheets make it easier to remember rules since you don't have to flip through the book.

    If you still have problems learning Dungeon World, email the designers, offer to pay them in exchange for teaching you the rules via video conferencing. You can use Google Plus Hangouts or Skype.
    In fact, I have access to the Dungeon World pdfs and was talking to him about playing Apocalypse World, and he seemed interested. I think I will try and play Dungeon World with him next! Good call. If he likes that, I can introduce him to AW. I think there's room in AW for all kinds of playstyles; maybe that will be the game that bridges the gap, so to speak.

    Also, I never have any problems learning games. I am pretty good at figuring out systems. I am just terrible at teaching them to an audience with no useful experience. =/
  • Regarding the teaching bit:

    I do lots of systems teaching. In the old era I was the guy who bought lots of games and brought them to the group's table to run. In the new era I run and teach games in the Indie Gaming Lounge at various cons.

    I find that if you first make a summary or cheat sheet for a game it is much easier to teach, for some games I even hand out a copy of the summary to all participants during the intro speak.

    The summary is usually one (or two pages at the most). It has a very short intro on the setting, instructions for how to build a PC (if that is part of the game), how task and conflict resolution is done, how spell casting works. Just outlines, it is fine not to reproduce extended tables. This gives the players a "check list" of stuff that will happen, and they can verify what you're doing against the sheet.

    Even if you keep the sheet to yourself, it will still serve as an aid to help you remember the important stuff.

    --

    Regarding D&D (and other games):

    I assume that you have given the matter much thought already, but it is possible to drift D&D too. Open up the game for player participation, have them play the NPCs in sequences where their PCs are missing, ask them to describe locations that they have been at before, start setting stakes for ability checks (ask them what they want to achieve, not what they want to do).

    Get Lady Blackbird, play it with your friends if you think they'd like a steam punk game. It is a nice game, with pre gens and everything. You'll learn it in 15 minutes, and the first session plays in four hours. Even if you decide against playing it, it contains valuable lessons on how to run games with player involvement.

    Zombie Cinema is an excellent gateway game for beginners under guidance. Everyone loves zombies, and the rules are very simple. (IMO Remember Tomorrow may be a good game, but it is not a good intro to the hobby.)
  • edited September 2011
    The cheat sheet advice is gold! I usually pass out the included play summary if there is one, but writing my own sounds much better.

    I have read and played Lady Blackbird, and should have run that first. It's a perfect game to introduce people to gaming and story gaming in particular. Actually I think I should have played a few of the more "traditional" games out there and then busted out Fiasco as my introduction to GMless gaming. I discussed Fiasco with my group after the aborted Remember Tomorrow game, and they seemed enthused.

    Zombie Cinema is rad; perhaps that will see some play, but I think it may be a little too freeform at this particular stage. We'll see how he takes to other games, first.

    I love Remember Tomorrow, and I think my love of it hindered me here. It is definitely not a beginner's game (incidentally, the non-gamer member of our group took to it much better than the humorous/passive-aggressive gent).

    So I think my revised plan of action is to start by playing games I know we both like (D&D), drifting it to a story gaming style of play, then popping Dungeon World or Lady Blackbird out, and then maybe playing a game of Fiasco. If he's game for all that maybe afterwards we can have a more productive conversation about what he likes and doesn't like. I realize now that what I want to get out of him are his preferences, which he keeps pretty locked up under the guise of not wanting to ruin anyone's fun (which he ends up ruining by being disdainful or overly comedic during play).

    Good intentions, poor outcome. I know he wants to play games, and I know there must be at least one game we both enjoy. Between my poor teaching attempts and his unwillingness, finding out what that game is has been impossible.

    EDIT: I think my problems are solved, or at least I know what I should do next. Thanks for brainstorming with me, guys! I'm too close to the situation to really think about it properly, I suppose. Thread closed (for now)! :)
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