Fixation on the Negative

edited July 2007 in Story Games
I'm having a problem getting buy-in from my players en masse regarding story games. Through a degree of parallel evolution, we have been using a number of techniques (collaborative world building, dramatic editing, player scene generation etc.) in our traditional rpgs for years, but the jump to actually playing SG's seems to always falter. Except for Spirit of the Century.

What tends to be the issue is that whenever we discuss a game, someone will tend to fixate on a certain point in the game and therefore almost enact a veto on the game. Some examples:

Burning Wheel: Crunchier than chewing diamonds - and that combat system just looks like a complete disconnect!
Burning Empires: See above, and is it even a roleplaying game? Sounds like it should be a board game?
Dogs in the Vineyard: Religion? I hate religion. And we all play the same type of character? Why would I want to enforce morality?
Primetime Adventures: We are not ready! If we play it, we might spoil it...

Now, to be fair, we are playing PTA but not by-the-book. It's very much in the traditional mold of the GM-as-primary author. The game is still excellent (it's managed to get me over my hatred of 1920s games) but it isn't 'proper' PTA and was never propped as being that by the GM. As I mentioned above, we are also playing Spirit of the Century and FATE is increasingly becoming the go-to-game for us when we have an idea for a campaign.

However, with my first GenCon trip imminent, I fully intend to bathe in as many game-on-demand sessions as I can get, and bring back a swathe of new games. Any hints as to how I can sell these games to my players better? The final irony.... my profession? Yup, I'm a card carrying professional marketeer! Oh the shame...

Neil

Comments

  • I can think of two options right away:

    1. Try working in a smaller group. Peel off the one or two folks in your group who you think are absolutely the most likely to really get into a story game, and do a one-shot or short-arc game just with them sometime during the week. If you sell them on it (which ought to be easier, since a pre-emptive veto is less likely), then their enthusiasm will help sell those games to the whole group later on.

    2. Be happy with what you've got. Seriously, man, if you've got collaborative world building, dramatic editing, player scene generation, and all the other trappings of story games seeing regular use in your traditional games, why be so worried about playing a "true" story game? You're obviously already cherry-picking the best ideas out of any story games that come down the pike and incorporating them into your traditional games, and your players are embracing them; how is that not a victory? Might as well keep doin' your own thing until it stops working for you.
  • I don't know. The only way I've been able to get to play lots of weird games is by getting in touch with other people who also want to play weird games, or suggest it to people who then actually say "yes". I've found it frustratingly impossible to convince people who say "no" to begin with, and it's been years since I even tried. Much easier to find someone else to play that particular game, then.
  • First of all, fuck playing a game as it is written. You can't do it anyway, so fuck trying. You're playing PTA with the Producer having a whip hand? And having fun with it? Awesome. You're playing PTA. Fuck what other people think PTA should be. Who cares what they think.

    Second of all, if you're having fun, you don't need to change anything just for the sake of change. If you want to have a different kind of experience that you believe will be a different kind of fun, figure out the experience first, then work out what game will get you there.
  • The above posters speak wisdom. Don't convert your friends if they don't want to be converted. If you want to try something new, find some folks who are also interested in trying something new. Then have a whole lot of fun and make your don't-want-to-be-converted friends jealous. :)
  • Hey, what they said, but are any of your peeps coming to Gen Con? Games on Demand is a great low-stress low-commitment way to try out new stuff. Forge booth demos, too, maybe. Maybe you can show off why you are excited about it without being a big evangelist.
  • I had (and to an extent still have) the same problem as you. Selling my group on indie games has been a rough process, but after several successes, my players have gained some trust when I field a new game.

    We started with Truth & Justice, which I think I fielded as the "supers RPG where it doesn't take hours to make a somewhat-unimpressive super, but 15 minutes to make a cool one." After that almost fell on my face (because I was new to it and to playing around with loose narrative control), I ended up running in a second time for an impromptu group with an out-of-town friend. That succeeded.

    Then, also thanks to someone else in my group interested in it, we tried Dogs in the Vineyard. A good chunk of my group loves chivalry & playing uncompromising paladins, so it was an easy sell with "dude, Mormon paladin gunfighters." That led to trying it again and again, to where it's almost our standard pick-up game.

    Let's see...I ran Spirit of the Century for them, and that sold well. We've done Don't Rest Your Head, the Shab-al-hiri Roach (with this one, try telling them it's just an evening's experiment), and our current Burning Empires campaign (which, incidentally, is one where as a group we aren't really enjoying most the system, but we're still playing it out because the method of storytelling is fascinating to us.) With BE, I sold my players on a demo by showing them the scenes their characters didn't see, and they really enjoyed knowing (from a player-not-character standpoint) that they were marching into their doom.

    I suppose I should also state that I started by offering these other games as "off"-sessions, sessions that we planned ass one-shots that weren't during our normal RPG night and didn't necessarily involve everyone. Ask two or three people to come over to play a game, and since you're not having to teach everyone the rules, you can focus in on the play. Then let them tell the rest of the group what they thought, in their own voice & words.

    I've been trying to sell Polaris for months, especially after I got to play it in March. I'm almost successful, but for finding the time.

    After the last year, I would say to not evangelize. Since you're trying to accomplish something, try offering the games in exchange for a personal favor -- that's how I got some playtesting for other people done in the last year or so. I think Don't Rest Your Head might be a good one to try, because it doesn't require a lot of investment on your part as a GM if they end up not liking the game, the set-up is quick and the play can easily fit in a single session. Oh, and don't abandon the idea of playing a "traditional" game afterwards -- I've run some Unknown Armies and another guy ran some SLA since we're starting playing indie games.
  • edited July 2007
    Thanks for the replies. Appreciate the ... forthrightness <g>

    Smaller group? Actually this has worked to an extent. Our larger group (five players plus a GM) has spawned a smaller group (the PTA group) with three of us and another person who is acting as GM. Our aim with that group is to do short arc games, rotating the GM and with a distinct eye on trying new stuff. That said, the comments above were generated when I suggested I run BW with that group.

    Loved the comment about playing games 'as written' - it's painfully ironic as one of our group regularly lambasts me for throwing away huge chunks of rules that I simply find too much hassle to engage.... usually combat rules. We'll get around to using the scene rules eventually I reckon, but not for that GM or this campaign. No loss though.

    I think the best advice was the 'be happy with what you've got' comment. Yeah, you are wholeheartedly right. Appreciate what you have.

    And no, we could hardly abandon trad. games - we're about 20% of the way into the Great Pendragon Campaign and that little suckers only a few years from pulling the sword out of the bloody stone. It's become a matter of principle now!

    There will be me and two others coming to GenCon Jason, and I think we intend to be hammering as many games and demos as possible.

    I hope you guys recognise that this isn't converting evangelism - it's actually just wanting to try some of the cool games that everyone else seems to be having so much fun with already. Stripping the ideas out of them is one thing, but trying the actual things is another.

    Anyway. Onwards! Thanks again

    Neil

    ps. I forgot to mention, as it completely slipped my mind - I did get a bite on Cold City!
  • Posted By: vodkashokSpirit of the Century and FATE is increasingly becoming the go-to-game for us when we have an idea for a campaign.
    Coming from "traditional RPGs", what is it about Spirit of the Century and FATE that appeals to your fellow gamers?
  • 1. The flexibility - we're already talking about fantasy and space opera versions
    2. The 'out there, on the table, ready to play' nature of the characters story being wholly facilitated by the char gen
    3. It just seems to be the game that, at the moment, mirrors exactly what we want from a system

    It just feels 'right' at our table - pretty hard to describe really. Theres a definite synergy between the system and our playstyle

    Neil
  • Posted By: Chris PetersonComing from "traditional RPGs", what is it about Spirit of the Century and FATE that appeals to your fellow gamers?
    I ran SotC for three different groups of people, only one of which was "indie-friendly" from the outset. It fared much better than doing the same with BW/BE, unfortunately.

    I think there's something about the design of SotC/FATE that is very traditional (it's rooted in FUDGE, after all), but Aspects sneak in this story-game/new-school vibe, and does so very covertly. The very act of invoking and compelling Aspects encourages all sorts of narrative creativity and shared control, and players seem to take to it immediately. Things like DoW in BW/BE were a much bigger hurdle, for some reason.

    If there's a "Basic Set" for indie/story games, I'd say SotC/FATE is it.
  • edited July 2007

    ... assuming that you're coming from an RPG playing perspective.

    Now, I played a bunch of FUDGE several years ago and didn't get what I needed out of it, while FATE seemed a step in the right direction. Then I started the Sacred Cow Burger and Sausage Company and started doing altogether new stuff. And as much as I love Luke and have tremendous respect for what he's done, I can't get into Burning Wheel for precisely the same reason so many other folks do get into it. Actually, it's the same reason I'm not really into Sorcerer, which is a very sneaky way of communicating fiction building tools to Champions players. In both of these games, the meat is the meat I want, but it's got all this stuff around it that I don't want. It's like ordering lamb in a restaurant (I love lamb) and discovering that the lamb I ordered is crusted with black pepper (I love black pepper): they're all good things, but the things I love are all in the wrong places for me and in the wrong proportions.

    I haven't played FATE (despite having owned a copy I printed out and bound 5 years ago or something) or SotC, so maybe you're right. But I can certainly see why BW/BE might not click rightly.

    Assuming that the players are not familiar with other RPGs, though, I think PTA, which both borrows its fundamentals from TV and has terminology and structure that has inspired many other games, that's the way to go. It's both easily comprehensible and expresses many ideas common to more recent games.

    [Edit: Buzz, are we in the wrong thread? I just looked up top and didn't see the OP I expected.]

  • And as much as I love Luke and have tremendous respect for what he's done, I can't get into Burning Wheel for precisely the same reason so many other folks do get into it. Actually, it's the same reason I'm not really into Sorcerer, which is a very sneaky way of communicating fiction building tools to Champions players. In both of these games, the meat is the meat I want, but it's got all this stuff around it that I don't want. It's like ordering lamb in a restaurant (I love lamb) and discovering that the lamb I ordered is crusted with black pepper (I love black pepper): they're all good things, but the things I love are all in the wrong places for me and in the wrong proportions.

    Josh I don't understand what you mean exactly...am I just dense? :)
  • edited July 2007
    I think the truth of the original post is slightly more complex, in that it's not that the group don't like those games, it's that possibly in each case not ever member can agree. I'd play Burning Wheel (even though I'm possibly the one quoted about the combat system, but this is primarily a reason why I wouldn't run it) and Dogs in the Vineyward in a heartbeat. I'm less enamoured with Burning Empires, from the little I know of it, and I'm not a big fan of the each have a scene in turn PTA thing.

    I'm sure it's slightly different for each other member :)

    I believe the SotC synergy comes from a few basic things:

    (1) It's by and large a very traditional role-playing game.
    (2) It puts characters on the table, makes their issues and 'aspects' obvious and provides a mechanic and a currency to bring them into play.
    (3) It represents a good middle-ground on rules complexity, and always makes the rules about cool stuff and more story-orientated than trying to simulate reality.

    I think those are the key things. The key thing that has been missing from the games we play, despite all the tools we use, is the final piece: the rules bringing the characters to the table, and providing a currency to make it happen (not that it doesn't, but those currencies add extra spice).

    I fully believe that (1) mixed with (2) and (3) accounts for a lot of the games success - many other games throw too much of the traditional out for many people.
  • I'm not a big fan of the each have a scene in turn PTA thing

    FWIW, that's now how PTA works.

    Our group, consisting almost entirely of published or nearly-published designers can't agree on what to play, necessarily. We break up into subgroups when we want to do something else.

    Tyler, what I meant about BW is that the crunch is all in the wrong places for me. It makes me strategize about things I don't care about that much and I can't strategize about the things I do. It's a matter of design spec. It's the reason I like playing TSoY more: I get to put all the stuff about my character's rise and fall, ambitions and depravities at the front. I'm just really fumbly with BW's tools, you know?

    And it's not like someone else couldn't do exactly what I like to do with TSoY with BW, either. They'd just have to be thinking about the game differently than I do. They'd have to like a slightly different toolbox.

  • edited July 2007

    Oh, by the way: I think the combat system in BW is awesome. I fucking love it. It's unequivocally brilliant. Battle of Wits, is, of course, similarly brilliant, since it's the same system. That doesn't, of course, mean that you should like it, but this is what I mean above: you can't make what you want to make with those tools, even if someone else could make the same thing.

  • I think people should strive to be open minded, and willing to try new things.

    But in the end, people like different things. That's what makes people interesting!

    If you find that a game isn't right for the group you've got, that's ok! Play a game you all enjoy. You can't fit a square peg in a round hole, as they say. Well, you can, but the peg won't enjoy it.

    And if you're still into playing a game that some people in the group didn't like, try getting together with the ones that were open to it. Maybe try inviting some people you haven't played with before. That's cool too!

    P.S. Anyone who plays a session of Burning Empires and says it isn't a role-playing game is smoking crack. I will stab them in the face.
  • P.S. Anyone who plays a session of Burning Empires and says it isn't a role-playing game is smoking crack. I will stab them in the face.

    Man, I'm tired of that argument.

  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanMan, I'm tired of that argument.
    DItto. I was selling the game to one group and a guy said, "This sounds like a an RTS game." Idiocy.
  • edited July 2007
    Posted By: Thor OlavsrudAnyone who plays a session of Burning Empires and says it isn't a role-playing game is smoking crack.
    "This quote unquote motor car is very nice, but how am I supposed to use my buggy whip on it? Ridiculous."
  • edited July 2007
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanFWIW, that's now how PTA works.
    Hmmm, I'm pretty sure in the rule book I have each player, as in all involved take turns to suggest a scene, with some set-up criteria. They do it in turn, around the table.
  • Ian, you're right up until the "in turn, around the table" bit. That's how it usually defaults. But what the book says is, "Everyone should have an opportunity to request a scene before the Producer frames his next scene."
  • Fair enough, but I think people are picking :)

    The point is everyone creates a scene in turn before the produce does his next one, my book even suggests you do it in order around the table after the spotlight guy (unless someone wants to do one in a different chronological order).

    The main point is I'm still not sure I'm a big fan of the structure. Willing to try like.
  • Oh, yeah, but framing a scene doesn't mean that you're in it. If I'm playing Alice, you're playing Beatrice, Josh is playing Clarice, and Jason is Producing and it's my turn, I get to say, "OK, Beatrice and Clarice are in the engine room and they're taking the efrit out of the boiler." All it means is that I say who's there and what they're doing. Jason then sets up the other stuff — foreshadowing, introducing conflict, bringing in other characters, stuff like that.

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