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  • Ensemble roleplaying - Suggestions?

    With "ensemble roleplaying" I mean the players are not running their characters as a group, so they can be friends, rivals, foes, contacts, etc; or even unknown to each other. I think I have hear it referred to as ensemble roleplaying, but my google-fu fails me so I haven't found any match or alternative. But the term fits, so until I hear a better term I will go with that

    After bouncing some ideas with a workmate and talking about what what he want to play and I want to ST, what we came up with could be summed up as ensemble roleplaying in a fishtank driven sandbox with a strong focus on culture gaming. The setting would be the Swedish game Noir, but as the setting is fairly irrelevant and I would actually be surprised if no one here don't already have experience of this type of gaming (I think more than one of the WW/OPP games would be a perfect fit for this type of gaming), I think this is the right place to ask.

    While sandbox is a common term, fishtank might not be. Fisktank (fishtank) is a Swedish roleplaying term for relation and agenda driven NPCs. Each NPC is a fish, and the players are just other fishes dropped into the tank. The "adventures" are then created organically as the actions (or inactions) of the NPCs and the PCs are creating friction and conflicts.

    Now, I see this type of playing to work best with storyteller type of players, where there are only open secrets. However, both my workmate and I are more of method actor players and one of the requests was the possibility of having hidden secrets. Hidden secrets would make it harder to manage, and potentially a lot of scenes where the others can't listen in. So I think it should be a mix of hidden and open secrets.

    Our thoughts so far is to run it over video chat, while also using text chat (to substitute for sending sectet notes on paper) and virtual dice. Doing the gaming over the net would probably help with the "sending people out of the room" as it can be handled as a short break, or as an extra session with one or two players.

    Also, to not make it multiple one-on-one games that just happens to be in the same setting, I think there has to be something connecting the characters together. Something for them to at least gravitate around. However, that could be that they all have some sort of connection to the same city block or neighbor.

    To use a TV-series as an example, the HBO series Deadwood. Just a bunch of different people that happens to live in the same town.

    What I'm primary is looking for is ideas to improve the handling of such game, and potential pitfalls to look out for.

  • #2
    I've seen that type of rp in Larps. You have a larger number of players and multiple narrators running scenes, which lead to factions and political conflict.

    If you want to have political infighting, don't give the players a common enemy. Give them something to fight over, be it leadership or a company, or resources.


    I write things.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
      I've seen that type of rp in Larps. You have a larger number of players and multiple narrators running scenes, which lead to factions and political conflict.
      In this case, I'm guessing one ST and 3-5 players. Which I guess is enough to have some political conflicts between the PCs. But I think three players are (or even four) might be a bit to low, but more than five will start to be to hard to manage as a single ST (beside the problem to recruit the group).

      Do you know how the narrators coordinated between themselves in those Larps?

      If you want to have political infighting, don't give the players a common enemy. Give them something to fight over, be it leadership or a company, or resources.
      My current idea is that I will work with the players while they create their characters, to build in individual conflicting agendas (which would be a lot easier if there were only open secrets). So if say one player wants to have a politician and the other a police officer, then trying to find out if one of them would be interested in playing a corrupt person, and the other trying to weed out corruption. While the politician might have a lot more power to wield, the police officer wouldn't be the only headache for that character (I'm guessing it would work about the same for a Vampire and a Hunter in Wod/CofD). However, that politician and police officer might more or less be on the same side when it comes to clean up the streets form small time gangsters.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Lundgren
        In this case, I'm guessing one ST and 3-5 players. Which I guess is enough to have some political conflicts between the PCs. But I think three players are (or even four) might be a bit to low, but more than five will start to be to hard to manage as a single ST (beside the problem to recruit the group).
        Elder games are usually run this way. The Storyteller grabs 8 of their friends, tells them to make 600-point characters with no knowledge of what the other players are playing, and gives them a McGuffin to fight over.

        Originally posted by Lundgren
        Do you know how the narrators coordinated between themselves in those Larps?
        LARPs will usually have three categories of Staff:

        Combat Judges are experienced players who are trusted to adjudicate PC vs. PC combat or help facilitate Mass Combat. They usually have their own PC that they play.

        Narrators are players who have some experience as a Storyteller who are entrusted to run a particular scene, sometimes without knowing how that scene fits into a larger context. They will often have an NPC Septmember that they play, like the Warder or Den Parent, or an affiliated Fera.

        Storytellers are the people who write the overarching Plot of the game. They rarely play any one NPC for long because they have the whole world in their heads.

        Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
        If you want to have political infighting, don't give the players a common enemy. Give them something to fight over, be it leadership or a company, or resources.
        Or just play Werewolf. WTA is a fantastic genre for LARP because all the characters are nominally on the same side but can't stand each other. Off to go play in my WTA LARP...

        Comment


        • #5
          Best political game I played was a city Werewolf the Apocalypse game. If the other characters knew what my glasswalker ragabash was up to, she wouldn't have gotten that awesome funeral.

          In my old vampire larp, the narrators and Storyteller met before game to discuss the plot. The narrators knew the entire plot, but it was the Storyteller's story. The narrator would occasionally go to the story teller to ask questions during game.


          I write things.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by etherial View Post
            Elder games are usually run this way. The Storyteller grabs 8 of their friends, tells them to make 600-point characters with no knowledge of what the other players are playing, and gives them a McGuffin to fight over.
            This sounds fairly much what I'm looking for.

            Thank you for the information about Larps. This will be for a (virtual-) table-top game, but I think Larps can be a good source to draw ideas and inspiration from.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
              In my old vampire larp, the narrators and Storyteller met before game to discuss the plot. The narrators knew the entire plot, but it was the Storyteller's story. The narrator would occasionally go to the story teller to ask questions during game.
              What do you mean with plot in this case? Could you please elaborate a bit?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Lundgren View Post
                With "ensemble roleplaying" I mean the players are not running their characters as a group, so they can be friends, rivals, foes, contacts, etc; or even unknown to each other. I think I have hear it referred to as ensemble roleplaying, but my google-fu fails me so I haven't found any match or alternative. But the term fits, so until I hear a better term I will go with that

                After bouncing some ideas with a workmate and talking about what what he want to play and I want to ST, what we came up with could be summed up as ensemble roleplaying in a fishtank driven sandbox with a strong focus on culture gaming. The setting would be the Swedish game Noir, but as the setting is fairly irrelevant and I would actually be surprised if no one here don't already have experience of this type of gaming (I think more than one of the WW/OPP games would be a perfect fit for this type of gaming), I think this is the right place to ask.

                While sandbox is a common term, fishtank might not be. Fisktank (fishtank) is a Swedish roleplaying term for relation and agenda driven NPCs. Each NPC is a fish, and the players are just other fishes dropped into the tank. The "adventures" are then created organically as the actions (or inactions) of the NPCs and the PCs are creating friction and conflicts.

                Now, I see this type of playing to work best with storyteller type of players, where there are only open secrets. However, both my workmate and I are more of method actor players and one of the requests was the possibility of having hidden secrets. Hidden secrets would make it harder to manage, and potentially a lot of scenes where the others can't listen in. So I think it should be a mix of hidden and open secrets.

                Our thoughts so far is to run it over video chat, while also using text chat (to substitute for sending sectet notes on paper) and virtual dice. Doing the gaming over the net would probably help with the "sending people out of the room" as it can be handled as a short break, or as an extra session with one or two players.

                Also, to not make it multiple one-on-one games that just happens to be in the same setting, I think there has to be something connecting the characters together. Something for them to at least gravitate around. However, that could be that they all have some sort of connection to the same city block or neighbor.

                To use a TV-series as an example, the HBO series Deadwood. Just a bunch of different people that happens to live in the same town.

                What I'm primary is looking for is ideas to improve the handling of such game, and potential pitfalls to look out for.
                If he's still around here, talk to Temple. He had developed and posted about using R-maps (relationship maps) to drive the story and keep track of it in roleplay. Anyways, sounds fantastic to me!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lundgren View Post
                  What do you mean with plot in this case? Could you please elaborate a bit?
                  This is what this NPC's goal is. This is what is going to happen in the next game. This is the direction the game is going.

                  For example, the plot of the game is Sabbat are going to attack the city. The ST would outline the plot and assign narrators various NPCs. Certain events will happen over the course of the session that the players have to react to. NPCs will be doing these things and trying to accomplish these goals.

                  (let me know if this doesn't make sense. I drank a bit at lunch.)


                  I write things.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by zeroninja View Post
                    If he's still around here, talk to Temple. He had developed and posted about using R-maps (relationship maps) to drive the story and keep track of it in roleplay.
                    Either my search-fu fails me, or he isn't. But while I wouldn't mind to see if I can learn a few more tricks on managing relation and agenda driven plots, it is how to manage that the PCs probably never (or at least very rarely) will be in the same scene at the same time, that is my main concern. Especially as quite a few players aren't too interested in running a NPC in someone else's scene.

                    So I guess my main concern is about how to keep everyone engaged in the game while they are waiting for their turn (or at least not zone out to much while doing other stuff).

                    Anyways, sounds fantastic to me!
                    Thanks

                    Originally posted by wonderandawe View Post
                    This is what this NPC's goal is. This is what is going to happen in the next game. This is the direction the game is going.

                    For example, the plot of the game is Sabbat are going to attack the city. The ST would outline the plot and assign narrators various NPCs. Certain events will happen over the course of the session that the players have to react to. NPCs will be doing these things and trying to accomplish these goals.

                    (let me know if this doesn't make sense. I drank a bit at lunch.)
                    It made perfect sense. Thanks

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Gah... This thread just gave me an idea on a potential setup for a CofDesqe mixed splat game. As if my brain needed yet another idea...

                      Each player makes a character and a few notes on three to five NPCs they would like having in the setting (at least one ally/friend/contact, one foe, and one neutral/unknown). All PCs and NPCs are presented with a very short and anonymous splat oriented description; possibly just with an "elder werewolf" or "rookie hunter". This without mentioning which PC or NPCs coming from which player. Then, each player can pick one they will happen to know something about. From that, a relation network is made by the ST based on the notes on everybody, and from what the players have mentioned they want from the game. What kind of splat each PC have is a hidden secret from the start, unless a PC happens to know the other PC well enough from start.

                      So the game could start with everyone being part of the same hunter cell or vampire covenant, but also that none of them are directly connected and a couple of nodes away on the relation map and no knowledge of what kind of splat the others are playing.

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