In Nomine - fear and loathing

edited July 2006 in Actual Play
Help me, Story Games! You're my only hope!

We have this group started by Claire, who posts around here as beingfrank. We began with DitV, GMed by Claire, which was totally cool. We then went on to my own kitbash of HQ, which I've put a lot of effort into making a coherent, player-driven narrativist game.

Soon my run is at an end and the next person is to run In Nomine. The other night we had a chrgen session, and from the beginning my heart began to sink.

It began with the rulebook: large, glossy, filled with familiar-looking lists and fiction. It continued as the GM enthusiastically told us a myriad of details about the setting that would have better been left to play. It hit rock bottom as the GM mentioned that we would have some sort of 'mission' to 'investigate' something or other.

Be still, my heart.

I guess I've been spoiled. In the last few years I've played nothing more mainstream than HQ. I've gotten to play Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, Burning Wheel, Trollbabe and Nicotine Girls. But the social contract for this group is that we'll all give each other's games a shot. So here I have to sit in on 3 to 5 sessions while we play guessing-games and display our splattitude. What can be done? Will it be as tedious as I fear?

Help me, Story Games! You're my only hope!

Comments

  • Well, play it.

    Think of it like an investigative movie, we all like to try and guess who is the crook before the end, consider it as such?
  • I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't care much for the method of introducing the game stuff to ya, but it sounds like a pretty standard game of In Nomine, which is a damn cool game. What's the question?
  • Could you tell me why you think IN is a cool game?
  • This post makes me irritated when I read it.

    You're in a group of people who play RPGs. I assume you like each other. Your friend wants to run a game he or she is excited about.

    My question: why don't you trust your friend? I bet you'll have fun if you'll let go of your - well, I want to call it elitism. You've come to complain to a group of people you think will agree about someone else's troglodyte role-playing ways.

    Everyone: *not every good game is some indie business you buy on a dude's website. Sometimes good games spontaneously appear in game stores, made by machine-like conglomerates. No one can explain why.*

    Now, I know I'm being hard, but have you played yet? From your post, it appears not. So play. Dedicate yourself to having a good time. The key to having fun is not in the rules of a game, no matter what some essay you may have read someone says. The key to having fun is intending to have fun. Super-awesome rules are just grease for those wheels, once you've got them spinning.
  • I don't know, mate, I think you're being rather negative. If you're playing a game with friends, there's usually some way you can find of enjoying it, even if you think the game's shit.

    Do any of the following work for you?

    1. Enjoy the game because it's a chance to play something completely different.
    2. Enjoy the game because it's a chance to study how a widely selling game works and then steal the ideas for your own games.
    3. Enjoy the game because it's shit and you can laugh at it.
    4. Enjoy the game because, even though you don't like the mission structure, the religious setting's interesting.
    5. Enjoy the game because you can watch how people react differently to this sort of game.

    There must be something you could enjoy about it, surely?

    By the way, I don't know anything about In Nomine, but my French friend loves it.

    Graham
  • edited July 2006
    My question: why don’t you trust your friend? I bet you’ll have fun if you’ll let go of your – well, I want to call it elitism. You’ve come to complain to a group of people you think will agree about someone else’s troglodyte role-playing ways.
    I've come here because I know the GM doesn't, and I need to talk about it.

    I don't care if you call me elitist, Clinton; because I don't think it's true. I just can't enjoy that stuff any more. It's not just the rules, it's the whole set-up. Here there's this whole elaborate cosmology so that we can go find out who's killing who. Been there, done that. Never liked the WW model in the first place.

    You might be irritated because you still like this sort of thing. Look, I'm not trying to ruin your fun: I'm just telling a story. Maybe there's a point here and maybe there isn't.
  • So play. Dedicate yourself to having a good time. The key to having fun is not in the rules of a game, no matter what some essay you may have read someone says. The key to having fun is intending to have fun. Super-awesome rules are just grease for those wheels, once you’ve got them spinning.
    I've ridden really good motorbikes--quick ones, grunty ones, agile ones. Anything else is just a way to get around. I don't just rely on what some bike mag tells me when I appraise bikes. I also bring my experience and biases to the party.
  • edited July 2006
    Do any of the following work for you?
    1. Enjoy the game because it's a chance to play something completely different.

    It's not. It's splats and kewl powers. It's mission-based adventuring.


    2. Enjoy the game because it's a chance to study how a widely selling game works and then steal the ideas for your own games.

    Maybe, but there's a lot more talented people than me doing that.


    3. Enjoy the game because it's shit and you can laugh at it.

    That's rude, man. Especially to someone's face.


    4. Enjoy the game because, even though you don't like the mission structure, the religious setting's interesting.

    I have a whole raft of objections to the setting, as a matter of fact, but they're not so relevant.


    5. Enjoy the game because you can watch how people react differently to this sort of game.

    Okay, now you're talking. I thought I'd finished with anthropological studies of gaming, but I guess I'll have to add another to the file.
  • By the way, I don't know anything about In Nomine, but my French friend loves it.

    A bit of an aside here, but the English version is more a 'homage' to the French version than a translation. I don't know how different they are, but I know they're different enough to not be considered the 'same game' mechanically by people who know both (some part of me wants to learn enough French that I can justify buying the French version, but it's such a train wreck to my ears - I don't understand why it's considered a romantic language, as opposed to just a 'romance' one).
  • Three more points here:

    SG is a sophisticated forum, where many ideas can be assumed to be understood and the dialogue is sprightly and clever. It's also an informal forum, where random moans are appropriate. I resent (mildly) the accusation that I only posted here because I looked for agreement, and I'd appreciate it if you withdrew it, Clinton, though I'm not going to make a fuss about it. My last random moan drew very little agreement.

    I note in reading the replies again that there is a lot of emphasis on friendship and trust. To clear up this point, I should explain that this group meets once a fortnight and we really don't know each other that well outside of the games. I wouldn't call the GM a friend--he's a decent bloke, and I've got nothing at all against him, but we really have little in common besides the fact we play RPGs.

    It's a social bind, folks. It's like when you have to go to your boring cousin's 21st. What I'll do is turn up and be polite, and try to contribute something. And make embittered notes.
  • If you really feel that there's no way for you to find it interesting and engaging, even as a pretext for socializing with your group, you owe it to your group under the social contract you describe to honestly tell them that you can't keep to the commitment of "giving it a shot."

    I'm about as non-traditional as you're likely to find, and I just played a year of bog-standard D&D and managed to find things to enjoy.
  • edited July 2006
    If you really feel that there's no way for you to find it interesting and engaging, even as a pretext for socializing with your group, you owe it to your group under the social contract you describe to honestly tell them that you can't keep to the commitment of "giving it a shot."
    Do you really think so? And what do others think about this? I just don't think I could do that; it seems too rude.

    You know, "managed to find things to enjoy" is not that good a sell. And can't we get beyond this "I'm traditional" and "I'm not traditional"?
  • edited July 2006
    Well, what kind of game-stuff do you enjoy?

    Don't tell me you're strictly narr -- no one's strictly anything -- for myself, I like gamist crunch and challenges of that sort: using the system to overcome challenges that should smear my character along the outer walls of the room. Being able to actually do that in a game is always a joy for me, and one of the reasons I really enjoy a good d20 session (as a gamer, as a GM I've given it up as putting too many hindrances in my way for the kind of game I'm trying to deliver); furthermore, in addition to the GM-jones that facilitating a good story gives me, I get a vicarious thrill when the players really cook the system. Some games give that to me in spades (d20's one... TSoY, surprisingly (for me) is another), while other do it less well (Nobilis, Fate), and some games don't at all (I ran Amber as a GM for years -- I stopped as soon as I started playing it, because it couldn't give me that at all.)

    So... what floats your boat IN ADDITION to getting player-driven-and-originated story? Yeah, it hurts to type that, and I'd certainly rather have that too, but as I've written above, there ARE other things that get me charged up, and if I knew I could find That Thing in a game that didn't have That Other Thing, and that I wasn't signed for for a three-year-long campaign, I know I could enjoy myself.

    Not even "find something to enjoy." Just enjoy.
  • Wow, what's with all the negative responses? Give the man a break. I didn't think this the kind of place where we make each other regret that we posted something honestly to begin with.

    Droog, I think it comes down to this: you can try and see if it works, and if it doesn't, you can bite your teeth together and go through with it because you feel you owe it to these people, or you can throw the towel. Which one is it? That's up to you, none of us can really tell you that, because it just depends too much on how you feel about the game and the people involved.

    We've all gone through shit for friends. Went to boring parties so our friend can meet that girl he likes, even if just for a few minutes. Gone on vacation to a place you didn't want to go to because your friends really did. Carried a drunken friend two miles home so he won't sleep in the street, then walked back and got the other one. (Or maybe that's just me.)

    You say this guy isn't exactly a friend, so it probably comes down to: how much do you value your word, and how much do you get out of keeping it, i.e., out of continuing to play with these people?

    Those are all questions we can ask, but only you can answer.
  • What's cool about In Nomine? I'm so very glad you asked!

    In Nomine is the game I point to when I tell people that highly detailed settings can still be incredibly versatile. The premise of the game, that there's a secret battle on earth involving angels, demons (and Other Parties) can be used for social comedy (Dogma), heads-up psychotic action with flaming swordfights on motorcycles, mopey superheroes nobody really believes in (X-Men), shadowy dangerous backstabbing espionage (le Carre wingfic with more gunfights), angsty supernatural critters worrying about the human condition (Anne Rice, WoD), and every damn thing in between. Hell, you can even switch gears whenever you want and incorporate a variety of these.

    The splats are awesome flags for what kinds of things people want to be doing. The "Falling" mechanic is a good systemic differentiation between how demons and angels act and you'll find that they try to accomplish things in very different ways. The "Words" forming the various subfactions makes for either a hilarious bureaucracy/office politics setup or a quick and easy way to inject a particular theme into a plotline or scene, or to "personalize" interfaction political struggles (a big weakness in many other faction-political games like the World of Darkness!) The d666 system is fast and loose, easy to learn and the "Degree of success/failure" die gives good narrative guidance. (It does have a few quirks, if it's your first time I would recommend getting everyone to agree that people can alter their characters a bit after a few sessions of getting used to it.)

    Mission-based games are good fun for a whole other set of reasons. Everyone is immediately on the same page. It helps replicate a bunch of great genres like action movies and comic books and war movies and spy stories. But that's another thread.

    I won't address the social contract thing except to say that occurred to me too.
  • doyce, I know what you're saying. I can appreciate a good crunchy system, and I'll reserve judgement on that until we play--but the GM himself says the system isn't much good.
  • The system isn't bad, it just has a few speedbumps here and there, as I recall. It is a zippier version of GURPS.
  • Posted By: xenopulseYou say this guy isn't exactly a friend, so it probably comes down to: how much do you value your word, and how much do you get out of keeping it, i.e., out of continuing to play with these people?
    Oh, I really can't back out. I'm too polite to do that even to an acquaintance (maybe especially to an acquaintance). And the group was formed to try new things. And I've had the last turn GMing.

    But I'm very interested in what other people would do. How many people would have no problem in saying 'No thanks, it's not my thing' in this position? Given that it's only 3 to 5 sessions?
  • In the same situation, I'd probably stick it out, if only to chew scenery when appropriate and steal setting ideas for other campaigns. (Heck, I'd like to see the 'Falling' thing in play, for that matter.)

    Interestingly, I can think of times when I *didn't* do that, but there were many more known quantities in that game that I knew I'd get nothing from (the GM was running an over-large group using d20 (which I'd decided to take a long break from) to run a campaign of heavy-sim (usually a tertiary interest) in a AD&D second edition game I am familiar with, and don't particularly find interesting.

    Your situation... I, personally, would stick it out.
  • I would have no problem whatsoever backing out for 3-5 sessions unless I previously made a commitment to be there.
  • Do you think that there is some implied commitment? The IN guy has given our other games his best shot, so I feel there is.
  • As others have said, better, you are the only one who can answer that.
  • droog,

    Apologies if you think I was too hard on you. We have fundamental disagreements about the nature of role-playing and fun, going down to the base assumption (by you) that system matters more than attitude and friendship.

    I think there is implied commitment. I've gone through this same thing recently. I totally think spaceships and the like are boring with a capital Trek. My game group has a similar setup. We're playing a game with spaceships. The rest of the group thinks superheroes and fantasy is lame. Guess what I ran? A superhero game and a big fantasy wonk-out.

    And in each case - including so far in the space game - we've loved it, because we all agreed to show up and try and help everyone else have as good of a time as possible.
  • Two minutes after I typed the above, I came to a realization: you've got an opportunity here to learn what this guy enjoys in RPGs. Take it! You'll learn a lot and know what sort of stuff to put in the game when its your turn to run. If you can manage to have an after-action report where you discuss what he liked and didn't like and what you liked and didn't like, perhaps he will learn a bit about what you're interested in, too.
  • Posted By: droogOh, I really can't back out. I'm too polite to do that even to an acquaintance (maybe especially to an acquaintance). And the group was formed to try new things. And I've had the last turn GMing.

    But I'm very interested in what other people would do. How many people would have no problem in saying 'No thanks, it's not my thing' in this position? Given that it's only 3 to 5 sessions?
    I totally hear that. I never thought I'd be in that place, of saying "No, thanks. No gaming for me tonight." One of my groups has a similar make-up, and I, too, find it harder to say that to an acqaintance than a close friend. With Emily or Joshua or whoever, I can say "Guys, this isn't working for me; is there a way we can take a few minutes to talk it over? Am I missing something? What's the grabby bit for you-all?" or "Y'know, it's just not in me tonight to play. Can we just hang out?"

    For a three session game, I guess I'd just try not to sabotage other people's fun, and try to keep an open mind. I'd also make sure I had a pencil and paper to doodle with ;) I do feel that there is a commitment to share around the gaming, from what you've said. You clearly say what the social contract is, so I'd say stick it out. Like when I was not having any fun GMing Buffy PTA, I knew I'd commited to five sessions, so I pushed through it. They all loved it, so it might have just been me. I am trying to figure out what to do about a proposed 'second season' that I have *extremely* little interest in.

    (If you ask Vincent, he'll tell you that a big part of his game design began with trying to figure out chargen and mechanics that didn't make my eyes glaze over.)
  • edited July 2006
    I think my main concern would be that you're going into the game already having decided it will suck, which means it probably will. I'm not sure that's more considerate than just sitting the game out.

    I firmly believe system matters, but other stuff matters more, in particular the group having fun at the table. A great group might have more fun with a better system, generally will IMO, but even with a clunker of a system a good group will generally still have some fun.

    As for missions, well, the mission may still be fun. If not, have fun with the incidentals, play someone who isn't interested in the mission but has to do it - not in a disruptive way but in a fun kvetching way. Try something non-disruptive to make it fun anyway.

    But critically, I think you need either to go in willing to try to have fun or not go at all, I think going when you have already decided it will suck is doing nobody any favours and in a way could end up being a bit disrespectful of your friend.
  • edited July 2006
    Posted By: Clinton R. NixonTwo minutes after I typed the above, I came to a realization: you’ve got an opportunity here to learn what this guy enjoys in RPGs. Take it! You’ll learn a lot and know what sort of stuff to put in the game when its your turn to run. If you can manage to have an after-action report where you discuss what he liked and didn’t like and what you liked and didn’t like, perhaps he will learn a bit about what you’re interested in, too.
    Ohhh, that's a good point too. Friend Research. FrienSearch.
  • Posted By: Clinton R. NixonIf you can manage to have an after-action report where you discuss what he liked and didn’t like and what you liked and didn’t like, perhaps he will learn a bit about what you’re interested in, too.
    I was thinking of suggesting a night when we talk about what we've been doing, maybe at the pub. You see, I'm really not used to playing with people I don't know intimately.

    For example:
    Posted By: Clinton R. NixonWe have fundamental disagreements about the nature of role-playing and fun, going down to the base assumption (by you) that system matters more than attitude and friendship.
    In the absence of real ties of friendship, system is a big deal. I can play my friend Brett's RQ because I've known him for twenty years (lived with him for part of it) and we all smoke pot and have a yarn. Actually I'd rather just hang out with Brett and have a smoke and a yarn, but sometimes he likes to run a game and it's not a lot different really.

    This isn't like that. It's a sort of informal club thing, and I only see these people in the context of roleplaying, for a few hours each fortnight. We're not close. You see? I'm married with a child: this is my recreational time. I want value.
  • Posted By: BalbinusAs for missions, well, the mission may still be fun. If not, have fun with the incidentals, play someone who isn't interested in the mission but has to do it - not in a disruptive way but in a fun kvetching way. Try something non-disruptive to make it fun anyway.
    Yeah, I already picked that Eli guy for my archangel. But you know what shits me? The fact that he's there--the rebel archangel with dreadlocks, for the player who doesn't want to fit in so well. So lame.

    Anyway, don't worry about the other bit, I can fake it just fine.
  • edited July 2006
    Yeah, I already picked that Eli guy for my archangel. But you know what shits me? The fact that he's there--the rebel archangel with dreadlocks, for the player who doesn't want to fit in so well. So lame.

    Anyway, don't worry about the other bit, I can fake it just fine.
    The revolution will be televised.

    To be honest, the whole splat thing, I thought Vampire was great when it first came out but then that whole concept was new and there were no splatbooks, just built in story ideas. It's hard to recall now how new a concept it seemed.

    Fast forward a decade and it fills me with a deep rooted ennui. Classes for those who like to imagine they're beyond that, guidelines for appropriate creativity. After all, without that we might just make it all up and then where would we be...
  • Droog, if I might offer an observation late in the thread... a good game on IRC is better than a bad game FTF. Really.
  • To be honest, the whole splat thing, I thought Vampire was great when it first came out but then that whole concept was new and there were no splatbooks, just built in story ideas. It's hard to recall now how new a concept it seemed.

    Fast forward a decade and it fills me with a deep rooted ennui. Classes for those who like to imagine they're beyond that, guidelines for appropriate creativity. After all, without that we might just make it all up and then where would we be...

    Absolutely agreed, as always.

    Back to the original point: I would go for talking to people after the game, and getting what everybody likes and whatnot. It's a fantastic chance to knowing more about that people.
  • Posted By: VaxalonDroog, if I might offer an observation late in the thread... a good game on IRC is better than a bad game FTF. Really.
    I don't think I can play, Fred; I have to go to my cousin's 21st.
  • Posted By: ImperatorAbsolutely agreed, as always.

    Back to the original point: I would go for talking to people after the game, and getting what everybody likes and whatnot. It's a fantastic chance to knowing more about that people.
    It always worries me when we disagree, as it happens so rarely.

    I do think though that people forget now how revolutionary Vampire once was, those splats originally weren't limits, they were in built story generators, instant hooks and conflict. Very cool stuff. It's only with time all that got lost.

    Otherwise, yeah, Droog might learn something about these guys that will make the next game he runs rock more. We rarely play with people with precisely our tastes, an element of compromise is part sadly of becoming an adult (and I am not suggesting even slightly that Droog isn't an adult), knowing what those guys are into can help with blending that with what you're into to make a better whole.
  • I donno, I never "lost" the point of splats. I always talk about them in character creation in situations where I haven't pre-selected them. "Remember, pick a splat based on what sorts of things you want to do and interact with, either supportively or rebelliously." is the phrase I used last time.
  • I can't speak beyond my own experience JD, it doesn't surprise me some folk still get what the point was, unfortunately in my own gaming history from fairly shortly after the splatbooks started coming out my experience was always more "hey, a gangrel wouldn't do that" or "he has to be mysterious, he's a nosferatu".

    Nothing in the game makes that obligatory, but Ithink that style of play was made much easier. Which is cool and all for those who like that, but I'm not really one of them. Back when there was one book it felt less of a straitjacket to me than when it was all splatted out.

    Of course, I could just ignore the splats, but I've found that people's expectations changed with them so unless the players were newbies I doubt I'd bother.

    But what can I say? I'm a grognard, if I didn't bitch about how it used to be better in the old days I'd get my grognard membership revoked which would be really embarassing.
  • Yeah. I am a bit of a jerk so I always correct people, newbie or otherwise, probably with a smug grin, saying something like "No, he's not mysterious because he's a Nosferatu, he's a Nosferatu because I wanted him to be mysterious." Oh well...jerk or grognard, jerk or grognard...
  • edited July 2006
    (and I am not suggesting even slightly that Droog isn't an adult)
    I like to think I retain a child's sense of wonder, with a healthy layer of adult cycnicism to protect myself against deceit.
    "No, he's not mysterious because he's a Nosferatu, he's a Nosferatu because I wanted him to be mysterious."
    Either way, I hate this so much there may be an RPG.net thread in it.

    But it's all good. I'm with you people who say it's something you've just got to do with good grace and get what you can from it. Thanks for helping me mull it over.
  • edited July 2006
    Posted By: JDCorleyI donno, I never "lost" the point of splats. I always talk about them in character creation in situations where I haven't pre-selected them. "Remember, pick a splat based on what sorts of things you want to do and interact with, either supportively or rebelliously." is the phrase I used last time.
    And that's a very rocking way of presenting them. Consider it stolen! :)
  • And the nice thing about In Nomine splats (vaya con dios, droog, forget I said anything) is that they're even more direct than the World of Darkness splats. By selecting, say, to be an angel in Eli's army, you're choosing not just to deal with issues of creativity and creation, but you are choosing to be a part of the very idea of creation, to be one of the forces of capital-C Creation, you were there at the beginning, you were one of those guys lugging dirt down to the firmament and separating the waters from dry land, and by golly, the job's not done yet! When a demonic plot comes in and breaks something you can take it personally not as part of some deep belief in faction, but because you have a personal stake in everything that creative minds came up with from architecture to rock and roll. Or to put it another way, when a creative process comes up with something horrible, you're smacked right in the face with it because, Hell, That Could Be You Standing Right There.

    It's like Nobilis throttled back on the power level and presented menu-style.
  • edited July 2006
    But it's all good. I'm with you people who say it's something you've just got to do with good grace and get what you can from it.
    As a quick last point...

    If you really think you can't enjoy it, I think you should pull out. Even if you promised to go. Because they won't want you there if you're the guy in the corner going "Well, I don't like this, but I'm making the effort."

    Do you know what I mean? Occasionally, with any group of people, someone will suggest something you don't want to do. And sometimes you should just pull out, because you won't enjoy being there and they wouldn't want you there.

    It's up to you, of course, and you should definitely go if you'll get something out of it. But not if it's an ordeal.

    Graham
  • Like Jason, I really dig IN. The reasons are twofold:

    a) the angelic powers are awesome story-accelerators
    b) characters don't die, ever, unless the player really wants them to.

    a) So, the angelic powers basically go like this:

    Seraphim: "Just tell me the whole backstory already, okay?"
    Elohim: "Please list this NPC's Keys in order of importance."
    Mercurians: "Draw me up the relationship map, double-time!"
    Kyriotates: "Splitting the party sidelines players -- so I'll just play my character with all the PCs at once, no matter what."

    b) If your character "dies", what happens is: he wakes up in Heaven a few days later, is chewed out by his boss for wasting bodies, is given another one, and then re-enters play. So, as a player, you can always do the fun thing, with no risk whatsoever that you'll lose your character and disrupt the character relationships that make a game work.
  • Neel, you just made me want to take a look at a game I had always written off - largely, I think, due to the GURPS-y-ness.
  • I agree. Character death is one of my big gripes in supposed story games, so I might look at this one now, knowing how it's handled. Thanks!
  • Actually I kinda like the GURPS version a bit better, since the system's smoother. Of course it has the whole GURPS chargen mini-game, which some people are not fans of. As they say in the movie A Pyromaniac's Love Story, which only I have ever watched, "You're Puerto Rican, but you have two good legs. Life is give and take."
  • First, yeah, which version we talking about here? I've played enough GURPS to know that it's not great for this sort of game, and the original US system I've run a lot of...and it's bad.

    I mean, it's not so much that it's bad for narrativisim or something, but that it's just dull. For example, the combat system is very much whittling hit points ala D&D. I mean it's bad. Can you kill somebody with a gun? Not a chance. And not to protect the characters...as somebody mentioned, if you lose you just go back to heaven and respawn. That's a good part about the system. No, things like guns are just underpowered apparently to make combat long and dull.

    I do agree that these things can be overcome to have fun in play, don't get me wrong. But the IN system is attrocious. Let's all go bowling, and wear lead boots bad.

    I do love the premise, however. If the GM doesn't like the system...then why not play it with something else? Angels in the Vinyard, anyone? Gives a whole new meaning to "Fallout," no?

    Mike
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