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Old 10-24-2012, 11:27 PM   #1
Jason
 
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Default The "right" reward

TL;DR version: When it comes time to give rewards to a PC, is it worth it to give them stuff that doesn't excite them (or their player) just because it feels like "the right thing to do" -- because that's what their Superior would give?

And now, the long version...

Recently, my group wrapped up our months-long series of adventures for the Revelation Cycle. It was a big deal for the PCs and their world, seeing as how they averted an apocalypse and all. In addition to the usual character points, everybody got the option to either stick with their Archangel and get a Distinction, or switch Superiors and get their Choir attunement plus a 5-point discount on another attunement or a Force. (That's IN Core rules, not GURPS, so we're talking another free Choir attunement or a half-price Force/Servitor attunement.)

One of my players seems kind of disappointed with this approach. He's playing a Mercurian of Destiny, and he doesn't really want the Vassal of Destiny attunement. He wants an 11th Force most of all, and more attunements after that. Why would Yves give him a distinction? he asked me. He's not exactly leadership material. I tried to explain that Yves is trying to communicate something to him through the rewards he offers. If he doesn't like what Yves has to say, he should think about employment elsewhere.

My player doesn't much want to switch bosses, though. He likes the concept of a character who loves humans on a personal level, and smites demons just as personally. If he switches Superiors, I suspect it won't be because he wants that for his character, but because he feels like I'm giving him a hard time for not playing by "the rules."

I'm worried that I'm having a hard time balancing what's fun for this player with what's fun for us as a group (and especially for me). I really like feeling like the game exists in an internally consistent narrative world, with NPCs who act in believable ways. In this world, people throw funny looks at a Mercurian of Destiny who prefers more superpowers over a distinction. They raise an eyebrow at a Mercurian of Destiny who chooses "Smite" when Gabriel offers a free attunement. They get especially worried when an angel who should be nonviolent by nature tries to wear a kevlar jacket and carry a bag of grenades everywhere he goes. And in this consistent world of mine (and probably yours), Yves would rather give this guy a Distinction (with nonviolent powers attached) to gently encourage some kinds of behavior over others, and to suggest that maybe it's start acting like a big-boy angel, so to speak.

By the same token, it's probably not such a big deal just to let the guy have the reward he wants. Nobody else in the group will really care, I think, even if they all still wonder why the hell he hasn't switched to Gabriel or Michael yet. Maybe the NPCs will keep badgering him, but that doesn't mean I have to.

I'm probably over thinking this, but it's not the first time it's come up for me. I'm hoping writing about it here will either reveal that I'm not the only one who faces these dilemmas (in which case someone may have a handy solution) or that I am the only one who faces these dilemmas (in which case I definitely am thinking about this too much, and I should just give my buddy what he wants). Either way, your feedback is much appreciated.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:10 AM   #2
fwcain
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Default Re: The "right" reward

If I understand you correctly, it sounds like Player X was given the choice of A or B, and is instead asking for half of each. I'd let him choose that option. I'm not sure I understand the problem.

Hope this helps.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:47 AM   #3
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Default Re: The "right" reward

In some ways sounds consistent, loves individual Humans more than Gabriel or Michael's Mercurians might, but wants to pound demons (for which there is nothing wrong with a Mercurian doing so.)

I don't remember what the Malakite of Destiny attunement is, but would giving the player the Malakite of Destiny attunement be something that they would want?
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:10 PM   #4
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Default Re: The "right" reward

I wouldn't give a Distinction to an angel that can't act like a big boy yet.

Is this character's tendency to violence making trouble, or not? It sounds like they successfully averted the Apocalypse, which ought to be worth something. That's especially true if everyone had fun doing it.

If the player wants an 11th Force, I'd let him have it. An easy Force-grafting is a pretty straightforward sort of reward, I'd think. Does he care which, or could Yves make it Ethereal?

Does the player know that people in your universe are likely to look at someone funny for preferring personal strength above status and rank? That would make perfect sense to a Michaelite, after all. If it's a standard viewpoint that he'll come across, just make sure the player knows and is willing to integrate a response to this into his interactions with people.
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: The "right" reward

@fwcain:
Hm, I was pretty unclear. No, more like he was given a choice between, "Swutch superiors and get what you want, or stay with Destiny and accept a more boring reward that's kind of a hint that he wants you to be more responsible and less violent."

@naraht:
He might want that attunement, but my question is more about good GMing practice, I guess. Should I try to give him what he wants or what my NPC wants to give him?

@William:
I've sold him short here. He's been a "problem child" at times, but he really did play a major role in averting a cataclysm. Yeah, he's well aware that people look at him funny for a reason, and that he might fit in better with some other superiors, but I think not fitting in is part if the fun for him.

Thinking about it a bit since I wrote the original list here, I suspect I'm just being a pain in the ass and taking the easy way out for me. I'm trying to get him to fit into my story rather than putting some extra work into come up with a story that fits my players' characters. I've got some ideas for why Yves might be willing to give him what the player wants rather than what I want Yves to give him. As long as it makes sense in the fiction, I probably shouldnt make such a big desk over it.
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Old 10-26-2012, 02:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: The "right" reward

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason View Post
I really like feeling like the game exists in an internally consistent narrative world, with NPCs who act in believable ways.
This is how I run things.

I put this first when I run games. I expect players to trust me, and part of that trust is that I'll run the game world as sensibly as I, the GM, believe is appropriate. I don't care about your character sheet. I don't care about your power fantasies. I don't care about your "adequately dramatic story-time narrative." I run the game with you, the players, in the spotlight because your decisions (not your character sheets) matter -- but your actions will have consequences.

And that's my established table agreement to my players. If they don't like it, they're free to walk. Not everyone's going to like what I run or how I run it, and that's OK. But I'll give you things up front before you commit to the table.

So, you gave your reward as you sensibly see how Yves would. That's your judgment call. Your player questions it. You had a reasonable discussion. You still disagree and believe the current reward is appropriate. ... well, then what's the right answer?

I say respect your table contract and stand by your judgment. To do otherwise risks suspicions of favoritism, invites player meta-gaming of the GM to influence play, and degrades mutual table trust. That's how I see it, and how I've learned (to my regret) from past lenient GM experience; but it's your table and you are welcome to deal with this as you see fit.
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Old 10-26-2012, 05:31 PM   #7
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Default Re: The "right" reward

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azel View Post
This is how I run things.

I put this first when I run games. I expect players to trust me, and part of that trust is that I'll run the game world as sensibly as I, the GM, believe is appropriate. I don't care about your character sheet. I don't care about your power fantasies. I don't care about your "adequately dramatic story-time narrative." I run the game with you, the players, in the spotlight because your decisions (not your character sheets) matter -- but your actions will have consequences.

And that's my established table agreement to my players.
My table agreement is similar, with one addition: As the GM, I will do my level best to ensure everybody (including myself) has fun during the game.

So... Jason, is everybody having fun with the situation?
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: The "right" reward

Quote:
Originally Posted by robkelk View Post
My table agreement is similar, with one addition: As the GM, I will do my level best to ensure everybody (including myself) has fun during the game.

So... Jason, is everybody having fun with the situation?
I have another addition that I've found is especially helpful in a game like In Nomine that can be run so many different ways. I try to have a fairly detailed conversation about what sort of setting I'm envisioning and what my default settings are for a lot of different things. For IN, it helps to talk about where I want this to fit on the "light / dark" and the "superhero / cold war" spectra (among other things), and how I'm planning to play various Superiors and the choirs and bands. It's really important to make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them, not only by their Superior, but their comrades at the table and their GM.

You can have an amazing time playing the only three angels in the entire metropolitan area of a sizable city, constantly worried about excessive disturbance and keeping everything a secret as you deal with demons who share many of those concerns. You can also have a ball being part of "Superhero Strike Force Gabriel, coming to your neighborhood soon to deal out over-the-top destruction with Flaming Swords to hordes of demons everywhere you look!".

What's really awful is being a player (or a GM) who wants to do one of those two extremes, and you're stuck with a group that's doing things the other way.

It sounds to me like you're coming from a definition of Mercurians of Destiny as "essentially non-violent", and your player is working with a definition of "non-violent towards humans, but otherwise, let's rumble!". Figure out how important that is to each of you, and if it's essential to your ongoing plot. It sounds like the "go with the flow" approach isn't going to work for this player, and so you need to decide how *you* want to deal with it. I think it's good that you're thinking of modifying your story in non-critical ways... but if you need to make fundamental shifts in what you're planning to do, well, don't do that except as an absolute last resort.

Yes, having fun is the ultimate goal. It helps to make sure that everyone has a compatible idea of what's "fun", though.
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Old 10-28-2012, 11:21 AM   #9
Jason
 
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Default Re: The "right" reward

Thanks everyone for the input. These comments pretty much get at the central issue here for me: I want the story to feel on-theme, but I also want to make sure everyone's having fun. If I wanted to just tell a story by myself, I'd write fiction. I tried thinking of what might take advantage of the fact that this is collaborative storytelling, and realized that I don't have a specific storyline decided upon going forward. It occurs to me that a good compromise might be to think about what kinds of roles my players want to play, and come up with a story that lets them fill those roles. As long as he understands that his character is going to be seen as more than a bit rebellious (and we talked, and he does), at least we'll be on the same page.

So, I suggested to my player that if he really would rather have an extra Force instead of a distinction, that might be a step slowly toward grooming him for a Word that might fit his character, his Superior's Word, and the Word of War, a Superior he's also worked well with: Rebellion. (Also, I didn't tell him this extra bit, but that would fit nicely into a story idea I was considering, with the Demon of Insubordination getting "promoted" to the Demon of Rebellion to reward/punish him for thwarting Malphas's attempt to engineer a premature apocalypse.) My player is rightly wary of this, seeing as how he's seen more than one Word-bound angel go nuts, so it's definitely a mixed blessing as rewards go. We'll see if we go that route. He's a little sheepish about his character being such a focus of the story going forward, but I figure we'll have plenty of opportunities to shift the spotlight among everyone who had a role in averting the apocalypse.
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Old 10-28-2012, 05:01 PM   #10
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Default Re: The "right" reward

Yes, many good points made. (I wish I could promise fun, but alas...) Here's a good summary to remember for your next table contract:

1. Mutual expectations of player (including GM) respect.
2. Any necessary player boundaries discussed and agreed upon.
3. Type of PC group interaction expected (PvP, PvE, PvGM, sandbox, group gestalt, individuality, whatever, etc.)
4. Setting genre expectations, mood, conceits, etc. (discuss what's not OK, too).
5. State setting premise and game scope.
6. An honest appeal to trust one another (sensibility, fun, impartiality, etc.).

I'm sure there's more to add to this table agreement, but these are the first highlight that stand out to me. Nipping problems of miscommunication in the bud is crucial for table harmony. That whole "ounce of prevention worth more than a pound of cure" thing applies heavily.

I found a quick little player survey can help get everyone on the same genre page, by the way. Pick a few parameters, like Contrast, Brightness, Mood, Humor from DMG for example, and give a 1~10 scale of preference. That way when you present your premise you have something to compare where you and the player may want to discuss. It helps realign expectations before you're in the middle of things.
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