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Old 08-27-2015, 11:42 AM   #21
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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Originally Posted by trooper6 View Post
*I wanted to say something about drive. Your player said he needed drive for his character. I think you would do well to mandate that each PC must have a short term and long term goal. Not all drives should be handed to the players on a plate by the GM...the players should also be doing some of the work to motivate their characters. Telling them that they need a short term and long term goal for their PC at character creation actually will help you craft interesting interactive adventures, but it will also place some of the generation of "drive" in the hands of the players...which will result in more buy in from them and a better game long term.
I would add to this and say I would be disappointed with drive handed to me by the GM; if my character does not have goals or ambitions of his own then he is boring. A goal given to you by someone else is a much weaker motivator than a goal your character actually cares about because of that being who they are.

My holy warrior wants to earn a knighthood - but to do it righteously, so he might get offered a shortcut which turns out to have bad consequences. Or he wants to help a group of escaped slaves build up their independent colony (which means he might end up assisting them in piracy).

My Canniborc wants (aside from to eat people...) to receive the full initiation to becoming an Unholy Warrior of Asmodeus, meaning he needs to perform various human sacrifices, assassinations on behalf of a cleric, he wants to assist in the dreams of an outcast dwarf of organising the orc clan into a mighty force equipped with machines and siege engines... he also wants to gather rubies as ingredients for magical gear, and he wants to systematically dismantle a kingdom...

My vampire character wants a stable food supply, because hunting is unpleasantly risky and she's something of a coward - so she is looking for ways to gather slaves or mind-controlled thralls in enough numbers for her to regularly feed.

Get them to set goals for themselves, and make sure they get to actually experience the progress; NPCs who were haughty jerks towards them before are almost fawning over them later (applies more for evil characters...), or in the paladin's case, each mission done for the maroon colony makes life visibly that much easier for the people involved (maybe they can build something new with the supplies from the last raid?).

If players cannot supply motivation for their characters, you will really struggle to supply it for them.
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Old 08-28-2015, 09:53 AM   #22
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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Originally Posted by Dingle View Post
Assuming your players are ok with getting free advantages, you could give everyone a free Common Sense [10] and just tell them every time they are about to charge in without thinking.
Well, I generally feel like that should be the norm, because many stupid choices on players' part could be results of GM failing to present the world and situation properly, but I struggle to make a habit out of it.

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Originally Posted by trooper6 View Post
So, setting question regarding your player who didn't see a reason to belong to a school. Is it even possible to be a magic user and not be part of a school in your game world? […]

*I wanted to say something about drive. Your player said he needed drive for his character. I think you would do well to mandate that each PC must have a short term and long term goal. Not all drives should be handed to the players on a plate by the GM...the players should also be doing some of the work to motivate their characters. Telling them that they need a short term and long term goal for their PC at character creation actually will help you craft interesting interactive adventures, but it will also place some of the generation of "drive" in the hands of the players...which will result in more buy in from them and a better game long term.
I'll have to think about it more, I might have been selling those schools badly. But as for the player in question, I don't feel he'd be interested in in-game reasons to join a school, only in the mechanics. I guess sacrificing some time to make characters in person with hard copies of books would be the only solution here.

I think I need to grow some spine to demand a drive from each player.


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Originally Posted by ArchonShiva View Post
TYou could try the Mega Man approach: have the bad guys very obviously use ability X or option Y, and make sure to quickly describe what it does specifically:
  • He uses an Imbument to make his sword burst into flames, adding 1d6 fire damage!
That sounds a bit silly, but I actually like it!


As much as I love Ocean's Eleven, I'm not aiming for that feel right now, but for some carefulness in action. For now I think I need to learn asking questions like "are you bashing that door right now or are you trying to eavesdrop what's behind first?".
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Old 08-28-2015, 11:26 AM   #23
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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Originally Posted by Gnomasz View Post
I'll have to think about it more, I might have been selling those schools badly. But as for the player in question, I don't feel he'd be interested in in-game reasons to join a school, only in the mechanics. I guess sacrificing some time to make characters in person with hard copies of books would be the only solution here.
I find one-on-one character creation really crucial. Because is allows you to say no to some concepts and redirect into something more appropriate. It also allows you to make sure that the characters work for that game world. For example, it doesn't matter if there is no mechanical difference between being in a school and not being in a school...if in this game world there are no mages who aren't in schools. Though I think there should be mechanical manifestations of the in-game situation....which could mean that mages not in a school must take Enemy (Witchhunters)...or social Stigma...or they don't have access to any spells that require Margery...or whatever makes sense in your game world. In Game and mechanics should compliment each other.

Anyhow...

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Originally Posted by Gnomasz View Post
I think I need to grow some spine to demand a drive from each player.
Remember 3 different "drives":
1) The character needs to be motivated to be a part of the campaign frame. If the campaign frame is that the PCs are members of Special Forces who are working for the Royal Academy of Magic...then the PC concept has to include doing that.
2) The character should have a short term goal.
3) The character should have a long term goal.

All of these things come easily if you know your character's backstory...so the PC should have a backstory. Some players will not write up a backstory...this is why one-on-one character creation is so important to me. That one-on-one process is not just about getting the mechanics of the character down, but getting the story of the character down. I ask questions during the process to help them build their backstory...which helps build their mechanics.

Something like:
Me: Okay, so I emailed you the setting last week. What sort of character are you thinking about making?
Player: I'm thinking about a Mage.
Me: Great! Which school are you thinking about being a member of?
Player: I don't see any min-max reason to be in a school. Also it looks like if you are a member of a school you can't take any spell you want...you are limited. So I'll not be in a school so I have no limitations on what spells I can know.
Me: Well in this world, almost all people are in schools. They are places of the highest learning and experimentation in magic. If you operate magic without being a member of a school there are a couple of consequences. a) you will have a really hard time learning new spells as no one in schools will teach you, you would only have what you start with. b) only the people in schools have access to more complicated spells (those that require imagery 1 or higher) so you would be limited in what spells you could have, c) no one who is not a member of a school can operate magic in towns, it is illegal, d) d) you'd have to take a negative reputation for being a wild magic user--they are frowned on--but most importantly e) the Royal Academy of Magic would not hire a Wild Mage to be a member of the Special Forces hunting down Wild Mages and your character is a member of the Special Forces hunting down Wild Mages.
Player: Oh...how do they know if a person is part of a school?
Me: When you join a school they place an arcane mark upon you that brands you as a member of a particular school.
Player: Hm...is there a way to fake the mark?
Me: What are you thinking?
Player: Well...what if I'm a Wild Mage who has a fake mark?
Me: Before we get into the fake mark. Why would a Wild Mage want to join the Royal Academy's Witchhunters?
Player: To destroy them!

**Here we have a red flag...this sounds like the player might not want to play in this campaign frame at all and this character might be really disharmonious to the campaign. If I knew the player well, and knew him/her to be a good team player and good RP'er, I might allow the concept...but for players who are not good team players, I probably wouldn't. If this is meant to be a one-off adventure rather than a continuing campaign, I'd also be fine with someone whose goal is to blow up the campaign...because there isn't going to be a long term campaign. However, let's say your player is more of a problem type and this is meant to be an ongoing campaign.**

Me: Let's go with a concept of someone who fits the campaign frame first. I don't want the party broken apart with internal fighting right off the bat. Also, when we talked about this as a group, you agreed that you liked the campaign frame of witch hunters...so create something that would work with that. What sort of magic would you like to be able to wield?
Player: I want to be able to wield everything!
Me: That isn't possible in this game world. But if you want the aggressive fire-ball wielders...or the ones with the most variety, you should go for the undead-hating spellslingers. They specialize in x, y, z...
Player: Okay, I can do that.
Me: So, why did your character decide to join the spellslingers? **This is me maneuvering to try and round out the character and try to come organically to some goals**
Player: Um...my parents were killed by the undead?
Me: How old was your character when it happened?
Player: Um...my character was 12?
Me: Did your character see it happen?
Player: Yeah.
Me: Where did your character grow up, in a small village or in a town?
Player: It was a small village.
Me: Okay so you grow up in a small village...what did your parents do?
Player: They were farmers.
Me: Great...so you grow up in a small village, your parents are farmers, and one night an army of rotting corpses set upon the village lead by an evil Necromancer...they rounded up everyone and the necromancer inspects each person...seemingly looking for something or someone...when he doesn't find what he's looking for, his zombies eat the victim. So...how did your character escape death?
Player: Um...his mother hid him in the hay loft of the barn and told him not to come out or make a sound no matter what.
Me: Could your mother have also given you an amulet to keep with you and let no one see or have?
Player: Cool!
Me: So after the undead army left, leaving only death and destruction what happened next?
Player: I made my way to the capital city to warn them...um...and the with nothing else, I decided to join the spellslingers to avenge my family.
Me: So your long term goal is to find the Necromancer and avenge your family?
Player: Yeah.
Me: Great! Okay so...
**Here I try to get him to talk about what made him bad ass enough to be invited to the witch hunters and why he'd join them. I try to get him to come up with a short term goal (probably figuring out the amulet). Ask some more questions to round out the character...and THEN start getting into the making the character.**
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Old 08-28-2015, 11:52 AM   #24
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

trooper6, it almost sounds like you're describing the Dragon Age universe, or maybe it's just coincidence. Just an observation.
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Old 08-28-2015, 01:07 PM   #25
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

Awesome example, highly appreciated!

How about creating characters over Skype or something, maybe with the sheet written in cloud together? Having 100 miles to travel for a game I'd like to spend a day on making characters only if it's really necessary.
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Old 08-28-2015, 01:24 PM   #26
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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How about creating characters over Skype or something, maybe with the sheet written in cloud together? Having 100 miles to travel for a game I'd like to spend a day on making characters only if it's really necessary.
Speaking only for myself (though trooper6 and I have fairly similar approaches), I would find that questionable for one key part of the setup. I always start off campaigns by sitting the players down together, in the same room, talking with them about the campaign, and asking them to come up with character concepts and to agree that the different concepts fit together. It's really important to have player/player interaction, both so that one player can stimulate another's creativity, and so that we can make sure that different character concepts fit together properly—I don't want a character who destroys another character's niche, but I also don't want characters who have nothing in common and would never work together.

I suppose you could have that conversation on Skype, but I don't know if it works as well for multi-way discussion as face to face.

This isn't going to complete the job; you can go away with anything from vague sketches to solid first draft character sheets, but you'll have to go over the characters at least a couple of times to get them into shape. That part can be done by e-mail and/or phone.
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Old 08-28-2015, 03:14 PM   #27
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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I always start off campaigns by sitting the players down together, in the same room, talking with them about the campaign, and asking them to come up with character concepts and to agree that the different concepts fit together.
I've had one bad experience with that while trying to assemble a group out of my non-gaming friends. After figuring out who wants to play what I've focused on making characters for everyone, essentially talking only with one person at a time. The rest was then sitting idle, having no clue what I'm talking about trying to flesh out all the traits for character. That was a rather bad introduction to role-playing. But I guess I just have been rushing too much and could have called it a day with just the general concepts in mind – now I've got a lot of ideas of how I could have done it better and it shouldn't be an issue now as most of my players run GURPS themselves, but it is there in the back of my head.
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Old 08-28-2015, 03:39 PM   #28
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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I've had one bad experience with that while trying to assemble a group out of my non-gaming friends. After figuring out who wants to play what I've focused on making characters for everyone, essentially talking only with one person at a time.
Well, it's true that I usually do this with groups who include a number of experienced gamers. But also, I'm not trying to get a complete character sheet for everyone. I just want to get quick sketches. Establish basic stats for everyone; decide what role everyone is going to play; maybe figure out Wealth and Status. But the load-bearing point is having everyone talk concepts in front of everyone else, so that we have concepts that (a) don't step on each other, (b) cover the range of options needed for a working team, and (c) have some reason to be in the same place pursuing the same goal.
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Old 08-28-2015, 05:12 PM   #29
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

I guess it's "don't try to eat the whole cow" all over again.

Thanks for all the input!
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Old 08-28-2015, 08:15 PM   #30
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Default Re: How to tell players what they can do?

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Originally Posted by Gnomasz View Post
Awesome example, highly appreciated!

How about creating characters over Skype or something, maybe with the sheet written in cloud together? Having 100 miles to travel for a game I'd like to spend a day on making characters only if it's really necessary.
So, I don't tend to worry about niche protection. That isn't a concern of mine from a meta story point of view. I am fine if a party has two thieves....or is all thieves (there are a few exceptions, but I'll get to that in a moment). I also don't worry if "all bases are covered" (there are a few exceptions, but I'll get to that in a moment). The dungeon fighting party has no healer? Well...then there is no healer. I don't need a group session (Skype or otherwise) to make sure that someone is playing the Healer, we don't have two thieves, etc...because that is not how I conceive of parties on a meta level.

Now, let me interrupt myself to explain the exception. The exception to niche's is if there is an in-game job requirement. When I ran Interstellar Wars, the ship needed certain jobs filled...so the players had to make characters who would be able to do those jobs. The captain of the ship put out the call (Co-Pilot/Navigator, Comms/Security, Engineer, Steward/Medic/Gunner, Merchant/Quartermaster/Gunner). But that was an in-game requirement, not a meta game requirement. Unless there is an in-game job requirement, I do not care about niches at all.

So, when do I do group initial character brainstorming?

I do it when the characters would know each other before the session starts. I do it when there isn't a strong external driver.

So, in Interstellar Wars, since they were all applying for jobs and this was a new crew and they didn't know each other beforehand, I didn't do a group character creation session. I did a group email asking people which job they wanted on a first come, first serve basis and then we did one on one emails. The PCs met each other for the first time at our first session.

I can get way with not having group creation whenever there is an external organization bringing the group together and in charge of them (Spies, Merchant Traders, Special Forces, etc).

On the other hand, whenever the PCs would know each other, or whenever the PCs have to be self motivated because they are basically freelancers (your dungeon delvers, your cyberpunk group, etc), then I find that group character creation brainstorming is a must. Again, not for niche protection, but so that the characters can build backstories, connections, and relationships together. So that *they* can work out how they know each other and why they hang out together. In a freelance PC group I find this step crucial. Have them explain why the Paladin and the Assassin hang out together. This is the time for people to work out...oh my character and your character are siblings! Or my long term goals and your long term goals are the same! Or, we grew up together! Or whatever.

I think group sessions are always nice, but if the group is part of an organization that brings them together and keeps them together...then the group session can be skipped.

You brought up the situation of going to the place, doing the brainstorming and then people sitting around doing nothing while you help one person. This is where I recommend what whswhs says...don't make the detailed characters then.

Have that group session also be a nice dinner...some sort of hanging out time. You hang out, discuss the campaign, do as much conceptualization and group talking as possible. You take notes, but they don't do any writing if they don't want to. But talk about backstory, hopes, dreams, concepts, connections...get all that down...then just have a lovely time with each other.

Then, to the nitty-gritty numbers stuff over Skype one on one.
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