My players' characters is getting killed ... in a game that can't kill them

edited October 2012 in Story Games
I remember some old discussions from another forum on how one may make the players actually give up in a fight. I stumbled upon players wanting to flee and that the players intentionally getting themselves killed in a game I created where they can't normally die. In a pulp game where you will always succeed with what you're doing, but with some side effects. Even with this premise, the players choose to flee or getting killed.

Here are some of the reasons why:
× [edit] Any performance criteria for the PCs are removed, because they will always succeed.
× The game got a pacing mechanism. At the beginning of a scene, the GM creates a trouble and then throws some chips that shows how long the scene is. The thing is, the chips doesn't measure how dangerous the trouble is (monster, lava trap etc.), but how long the scene is. Three chips equals three actions from three players and then the scene is finished. If the trouble isn't resolved by then, it's not resolved and may come back in a later scene. So the players may finish the scene by fleeing or solving it in any way possible.
× It's a one-shot game that takes 1,5 hour to play, and you don't keep your character. You draw one character from twelve archetypes in the beginning of the session and give back the character when you're done playing. This means that you don't have a connection to your character and that it's a rather unnecessary investment to build a strong one.
× At the end of each act (a game consist of three acts that has five chips to create scenes), the players narrates how the act ends. In the final act, this allows the players to go out with a bang, sometimes killing them at the same time.
× They got full control over their characters, and if they get any side effects from their action, they may choose the side effects themselves (from a list). Both me and the game also push for player involvement when it comes to make up people and places. By doing this, by giving the options to the players, they may choose bad stuff for their characters to happen. It's like writing a personality: it's the bad stuff that's memorable.

Comments


  • × The game got a pacing mechanism. At the beginning of a scene, the GM creates a trouble and then throws some chips that shows how long the scene is. The thing is, the chips doesn't measure how dangerous the trouble is (monster, lava trap etc.), but how long the scene is. Three chips equals three actions from three players and then the scene is finished. If the trouble isn't resolved by then, it's not resolved and may come back in a later scene. So the players may finish the scene by fleeing or solving it in any way possible.
    This is hot. The rest of it sounds kinda Czege-Principle-Violation-y to me. But that chips thing is great.

    Matt
  • The rest of it sounds kinda Czege-Principle-Violation-y to me. But that chips thing is great.
    Hmm, in what way?
  • × There is no competition. You will always succeed.
    I have to rephrase this:

    "Any performance criteria for the PCs are removed, because they will always succeed."
  • The rest of it sounds kinda Czege-Principle-Violation-y to me. But that chips thing is great.
    Hmm, in what way?
    Okay, I'm no expert on Czege Principle, but I think the gist of it is that someone should never create and resolve their own character's fictional difficulty.

    I'm not sure I entirely agree with that actually.

    A sight rephrase though I do agree with is:
    It's more fun to more people involved with creating and resolving fictional diffficulties for the characters, so always try to get other people involved with one end of that or the other. After all, you came to play with your friends, not seperately and in parallel to them, right?

    I remember being a kid and doing that sort of proto-roleplaying/storygaming tha kids do everywhere and me and my pals would create and resolve our own difficulties regularly without problems in "games" that lasted for hours and hours. I'm sure adullts can handle it.

  • OK, but you wrote "the rest" which I read as everything else but the pacing for the scenes. I don't see how for example "It's a one-shot game that takes 1,5 hour to play, and you don't keep your character..." breaks the Czege principle.

    And I can't really see how it's a violation against the Czege principle if it's the system that brings the consequences. The system works as follows:

    You pick a skill and describe from what it says about the skill. For example, the cynical detective got one skill where he first get hit (narrative damage only) and then comes back to give out more pain than he recieved. The skills differs for each archetype, but the side effects are the same for all skills.
    × A PC gets a wound.
    × The character gets delayed in some way.
    × Something breaks in the scene.

    Before the players describe their use of the skill, they may roll any number of dice from their pool (1-5 dice) which are lost after the roll. Any successful roll (3+ on any d6) removes one of the side effects. The player may choose not to roll any dice, but have to in that case include all three side effects in the description of the characters action. (In other words, bad rolls doesn't mean the actions aren't harder for the characters but for the players who has to involve all side effects with how they describe the use of the skill.)

    This does NOT break the Czege Principle in my book.
  • That's a much more detailed description, Rickard. Thanks.

    komradebob—I actually remember reading a great thread on Vincent Baker's gaming blog about that phenomenon of "kiddie roleplaying" where you're kind of fluidly moving between protagonist, antagonist, and omniscient narrator roles. The upshot was that actually adults generally can't do that sort of thing successfully for any length of time, at least not with each other. The adult brain does have real structural differences from those of kids, after all. Even those of us who have retained a childlike sense of playfulness and imaginative inventiveness are unlikely to be able to suspend our logical thought processes in the particular way needed to enjoy "kiddie RP."

    Matt
  • If true, that's just weird.
  • For what it's worth, that makes sense to me. I could KIND OF imagine still enjoying that by myself, but doing it with other people would feel strange. It seems like the more typical antagonistic models we've set up (i.e. roleplaying games, story games, etc) just seem to fulfill that interest in much coherent and more interesting ways, so why not do it that way?

    komradebob, your rewrite is fairly accurate, I think. But how do you get other players involved if you're doing both the setting up and the resolving? It will be difficult, it seems to me, unless the conflict in question is not really the point of the game. (Which is possible, but then why are we discussing it? Whatever is taking its place in the game should be our focus and be analyzed for possible "lonely play" which excludes other players.)
  • I couldn't tell ya Paul, because I have no great difficulty doing that sort of thing. I guess I'm an idiot-savant that way. I just assumed everyone else was capable of that sort of thing too and just greedy or lazy or competitive so they didn't do it.
  • Do you mean that you do that with a group of people on a regular basis, or just on your own?
  • First: Apologies Paul, that was an overly snarky way of phrasing that and I apologize to you, Rickard, and everyone else in the thead for acting like such an ass in posting that way.

    The answer though is that I've never seen it as a problem. Part of it may be that I just GM a lot ( or have, right now I'm not gaming much at all), so I tend to switch up focus very rapidly.

    I find it is vastly more interesting with a group, and actually have a harder time and a decided lack of interest in doing it by myself.

    I also don't tend to get deeply into a character to the extent that I won't create my own problems for them. Or, depending on the game, give suggestions out on weaknesses they possess and how that could cause difficulties.

    Best example I have of playlike that was a Space 1889 game run with the Mythic GM Emulator and just one buddy a couple of years back. All through play I was busy switching perspective, creating fictional problems, jumping into and out of character roles ( both my own characters and walk on antagonists), and it seemed like it worked very well.

    It truly never occured to me that other folks generally were incapable of doing that. I'm still dumbfounded at being presented with the concept that this might indeed be the case.
  • X Because the fiction really calls for it.

    That's the only valid reason to me.
  • edited October 2012
    I write this post in an attempt to steer the thread back to it's original topic ... :)
    X Because the fiction really calls for it.

    That's the only valid reason to me.
    I think you misunderstood something. It's not about when the characters should die, but why the players allow their characters to die. Imagine that you play D&D and the players allows bad things happen to their characters, without the system or the GM rewards it, and they do it even if the game states that it's not a part of the game.

    I started this thread because I thought it was interesting to see a self-destructive behaviour in the players in a game that's not really about it. I could never have predicted that kind of behaviour when I wrote the game, and now I starting to wonder how I can use that experience to create games that have self-destruction as a theme.
  • edited October 2012
    I think it is essential to determine this about your situation: When the characters die, do their stories die, or are they immortalized or is their death integrated into the story in some way? I mean, if you can continue to get much of the coolness of the dead character's story while also getting all of the coolness of the new character's story, that's not really self-destructive behavior. That's optimization.

    In a game with a fast-pace, this doesn't even have to be really part of the game. The player's memory could be doing all the work of immortalizing the old character, and they are confident that the memory will still hold strong as they play the new character. Nostalgia + Novelty = Double-Mint Gum

    Depending on how the memory of the old character and the experience of the new character relate, there could even be a synergistic network effect between them.
  • komradebob,

    No offense taken, and it's interesting point of discussion. Can you think of an example from a recent game where you feel that you (or another player) violated the "Czege Principle", and it was a lot of fun? I'm curious if we're talking about the same thing here.
  • edited October 2012
    Gimme some time. I do know that there are times when I've advocated against what my characters interests were and for awful, terrible things to happen to them.

    I recall at least one incident where Caesar_X ended up having to advocate for my character in a stakes setting type situation, since I was advocating for some bastard outcome at the player level. That was a bit of a twist in gameplay style, that may be pretty close to a Czege Violation.

    If not a violation of the CP, it does start to move into territory of quickly switching between playing characters and advocating for stuff outside of characters(including antagonists to your main peeple) in the mode you mentioned that was difficult for adults.
  • Ah, I see. To me, and from your limited description, that doesn't sound like a violation of the Czege Principle. Yes, you (and other players) were trying to push the fiction in directions that were at odds with what was good for your characters, but it sounds there was still a healthy back-and-forth over the fates of the characters and the events in play (as shown by Caesar_X taking your character's side, thereby giving the conflict "teeth").

    Does that sound right, or am I misreading you?
  • I think it is essential to determine this about your situation: When the characters die, do their stories die, or are they immortalized or is their death integrated into the story in some way? I mean, if you can continue to get much of the coolness of the dead character's story while also getting all of the coolness of the new character's story, that's not really self-destructive behavior. That's optimization.
    This is a really good point. The game is played in three acts, and if a character loose all hit points, it's written out of the game and may not return until the next act. The only time the players kill themselves off is in last scene in the final act. They want to end with a bang and doesn't care if the character dies or not, as long as they create something to remember. (Does this mean that they may sacrifice their character to push forward someone else, as long as the sacrificed one is remembered?)

    And what I'm talking about doesn't really just have to be about dying. Like you said, the story normally ends when the character dies. Things are actually funnier if just bad stuff happens and the player can continue playing the character without it's being penalized. Bad stuff in the story doesn't have to mean bad stuff mechanically. It may be harder for the player, but it shouldn't be harder for the character mechanical-wise.
  • Ah, I see. To me, and from your limited description, that doesn't sound like a violation of the Czege Principle. Yes, you (and other players) were trying to push the fiction in directions that were at odds with what was good for your characters, but it sounds there was still a healthy back-and-forth over the fates of the characters and the events in play (as shown by Caesar_X taking your character's side, thereby giving the conflict "teeth").

    Does that sound right, or am I misreading you?
    Well, I dunno. I mean, yeah, it gave the conflict teeth, kinda sort Mostly I was thinking more about how it flew in the face of the idea that people couldn't easily switch between playing a character, playing an antagonist, or throwing loops into play that didn't benefit their character. So, maybe you're right, no CzPrin violation there, but then I also argued that the CzPrin was more important for creating a web of communication than for being about confluct creation and resolution already.
  • I agree with you there. I think your restatement goes a long way to getting at the "why" behind the Principle. Nice!
Sign In or Register to comment.