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Minor crisis as a GM

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  • Minor crisis as a GM

    I’m experiencing a minor crisis as a GM. I have been tabletop roleplaying ever since 1989, and while I took three years off just participating as a player earlier this decade, I just got back in the role of GMing. However, this time around things feel different.

    Imagine that I have been enjoying popcorn for a decade. Most people like popcorn, but a decade of eating popcorn can get boring. So, after that decade I tried some crackers, but honestly it was the same as popcorn. It had a different name, different texture and taste, but it’s the same stuff with a different name. Crackers were fine for a few years. Then I found licorice. Now, the thing about licorice is that not everyone likes it. It’s salty and you can get it spiced with, for example, chili. And after that I could not go back to popcorn.

    I have been enjoying licorice for twelve years now, and every year or two WW / OPP comes out with a new flavor. I love it. And I’m good at getting other people excited about licorice. I got a whole bunch of folks in my home town excited about licorice. Now these people are getting other people excited about licorice. The thing is that I’m no longer into just licorice. I want licorice with all sorts of flavors. The problem is that if you try to offering licorice chili to someone who is used to popcorn then it’s is a hell of a shock. Better to go with licorice first and then slowly ease them into it.

    I’m experiencing a crisis, because I don’t feel like going back to plain old licorice. At the same time I feel like I’m turning my back on my local community. I want to participate and I want to offer my skills as a storyteller. However, at the same time this is a hobby. I need to have fun with it. And as soon as I turn to these forums I find so many more people who are just as well versed in these games as I am. A lot of folks with more experience than I have. So, I feel like coming here rather than seeking players from local associations and whatnot.

  • #2
    You put so much into your metaphor tgat I lost your actual meaning. Are you tired of tabletop games, or Onyx Path games, or a specific subset of OPP games, or something else?


    Call me Regina or Lex.

    Female pronouns for me, please.

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    • #3
      Ah, sorry, basic problem is this: I'm tired of playing the same narrative over and over again. Introducing new players to the hobby goes through the same steps every time, and I haven't had what is considered a regular gaming group since the 1990s. So, I have introduced probably hundreds of people to this hobby over the space of nearly three decades. After a three year break of GMing I would rather just play with people who don't need to be taught how this all works. However, living in a small town means that that isn't a real option outside of playing D&D. At the same time I'm feeling frustrated, because I feel like it's my responsibility to introduce new people to the hobby. Otherwise this hobby will shrink.

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      • #4
        The answer is obvious; introduce new people but don't go through the same steps or the same narrative.

        Onyx Path games are simple and intuitive enough that you barely need to convey any information to a new player. I started my first chronicle with no more lead-in than an invitation to join in playing a game, built my first character in under fifteen minutes with the barest explanation of what dots meant and how to play (literally being told by the ST "You act out a fictional person and tell me what they are trying to do in the situation I describe, I tell you if need to roll dice, and these ratings on the sheets cover how good your character is at various things" and nothing more), and was then launched into the narrative full-speed - no "starter" feeling to it, because the ST knew that new players and experienced players don't necessarily need different treatment.

        You just need to be excited about the games you want to play, use that excitement to gain interest of other players (new or old) to try it out, and you'll be tasting delicious flavors, to use your metaphor, before you know it.


        Not so noble anymore.

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        • #5
          Or start with different twist - Playing Mage: The Awakening, where everyone starts in Pentacle Order? This time start as Seers. Or better - Nameless Order. This last thing makes things really interesting - players will start their Order totally from scratch, they own decisions will build organisation.


          Conquest of Paradise - Fan Dark Era about Portugal and Spain conquests in XVI century - Mage & Beast ( & Hunter )
          My Hubs - VtR 2E System Hacks, MtAw 2E Legacies and System Hacks & WtF 2E Lodges and System Hacks

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          • #6
            The trouble is not with mechanics, because those are simply enough. I see the c/nWod and CofD game engines to, at best, medium weight. Easy enough to teach, but the games are so much more than mechanics. They are history, philosophy, ideology and individuals.

            I do know how to create variety in one-shots or short games. The trouble is that I find these sorts of experiences less compelling than before, and while I'm able to function as Storyteller, my own enthusiasm is less than what it could be. I find myself turning to content that is rich and complex, which is not easy to relate to in a short time frame.

            I'm currently running a Mage: the Awakening chronicle, where the players could have chosen to side with the Seers of the Throne, but have apparently chosen not to. Right now I'm restructuring my chronicle to provide an easier experience to a group of inexperienced players. Restructing it more as a series of quests, which the players can choose to play out in the order of their choosing. This allows me to later reintroduce them to more complex content, such as Order philosophies and their individual interpretations - all of which I can highlight through examples and thought-provoking challenges. A sandbox approach for players who have been more accustomed to a GM providing them with a clear path from start to finish.

            My initial plan seems to have been too ambitious for this group, which basically caused this whole emotional reaction. Luckily I have another group, which provides me with the kind of challenge and inspiration I look for in players for a truly collaborative storytelling experience.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by TelperionST View Post
              Right now I'm restructuring my chronicle to provide an easier experience to a group of inexperienced players.
              Have you tried not trying to change things because the players are inexperienced?

              I find most of the time people are putting on 'kid gloves' of one kind or another when it comes to inexperienced players, and are going over-board in doing so because they have underestimated what an inexperienced player can bring to the table. The majority of inexperienced players I've taught new games to flourished when I simply dropped them in the deep end and expected that they would work how not to drown, because the only thing that I expected of them to bring to the table is their imagination - no knowledge of the setting or rules or how to play because I can provide all of that as it is actually needed while playing out a session, and doing so does not take much time at all, and actually forces me to distill down the information to the most relevant bits alone to keep it not taking much time, and that incidentally makes it easier for the players to absorb the information for later use or reference.


              Not so noble anymore.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Drake View Post
                I find most of the time people are putting on 'kid gloves' of one kind or another when it comes to inexperienced players, and are going over-board in doing so because they have underestimated what an inexperienced player can bring to the table. The majority of inexperienced players I've taught new games to flourished when I simply dropped them in the deep end and expected that they would work how not to drown, because the only thing that I expected of them to bring to the table is their imagination - no knowledge of the setting or rules or how to play because I can provide all of that as it is actually needed while playing out a session, and doing so does not take much time at all, and actually forces me to distill down the information to the most relevant bits alone to keep it not taking much time, and that incidentally makes it easier for the players to absorb the information for later use or reference.
                I tried that out. I gave them all the material that they needed - teaching them through multiple documents that I constructed for their benefit and then more besides during sessions. A couple of months later I'm still teaching them new things, but I'm worried that it is just too much to learn. So, I'm thinking about giving them more time to learn the basics of the game, while I'm taking a more direct control over the game's events - and then I plan on releasing that control back to the players. Once they don't need to learn so many things at a time.

                Or, maybe this is the wrong approach. Maybe I should continue by using the whole width of the game's mechanics at my disposal against the player characters? So, they will either adjust or try to find their own solution. Apply pressure and threats until there is nothing more for the player characters to do but to take charge or break.

                The player characters have been allowed to explore the world at their leisure so far. Solve its mysteries at their own pace. Maybe it is time to make them endure an attack. There are plenty of in-game reasons for it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by TelperionST View Post
                  Ah, sorry, basic problem is this: I'm tired of playing the same narrative over and over again. Introducing new players to the hobby goes through the same steps every time, and I haven't had what is considered a regular gaming group since the 1990s. So, I have introduced probably hundreds of people to this hobby over the space of nearly three decades. After a three year break of GMing I would rather just play with people who don't need to be taught how this all works. However, living in a small town means that that isn't a real option outside of playing D&D. At the same time I'm feeling frustrated, because I feel like it's my responsibility to introduce new people to the hobby. Otherwise this hobby will shrink.
                  Why not look for experienced players through here, or a service like roll20?


                  Call me Regina or Lex.

                  Female pronouns for me, please.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TelperionST View Post
                    I gave them all the material that they needed - teaching them through multiple documents that I constructed for their benefit...
                    That's a different thing than what I was talking about, and is a problem on it's own.

                    You didn't just bring new folks to a game and tell them you would fill in the blanks as needed beside them imagining - you assigned homework, and your players (like most in my experience) didn't respond well.

                    At this point, I have only one suggestion left: Spend some time at the start of your next session with this group talking to them earnestly about your desires, your concerns that those desires aren't going to be met satisfactorily, and their desires for the game and thoughts on how everyone's desires can be best realized by the group working together.



                    Not so noble anymore.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Drake View Post
                      At this point, I have only one suggestion left: Spend some time at the start of your next session with this group talking to them earnestly about your desires, your concerns that those desires aren't going to be met satisfactorily, and their desires for the game and thoughts on how everyone's desires can be best realized by the group working together.
                      I already did that before we started the chronicle. I explained to them in detail that this is a very demanding chronicle. That they actually have to learn how the mechanics work, because unless you spend time reading the core book and thinking about how spell casting works, then you are not going to understand how Mage works. It doesn't help that the books are written in way that is...less than accessible to people new to Mage. I don't see an alternative, because if I crunch through all the mechanics then the players will never learn how it all works. They'll get a general idea of how it works. And it will slow sessions down to a crawl, because each spell requires some simple math that has a lot of variables.

                      I'm probably thinking about this backwards. I don't know.

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                      • #12
                        TelperionST, just print them 2-3 copies of 2E Spellcasting Appendix, Conditions Appendix ( or Conditions cards, they are more readable ) and Creative Thamuaturgy section. It like risen mechanics awareness of my noob players by 200% - players do not like to learn rules by reading book. When they need to check those on handouts in play, they are much more eager to this in times when they PC is out of spotlight, for example.


                        Conquest of Paradise - Fan Dark Era about Portugal and Spain conquests in XVI century - Mage & Beast ( & Hunter )
                        My Hubs - VtR 2E System Hacks, MtAw 2E Legacies and System Hacks & WtF 2E Lodges and System Hacks

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                        • #13
                          I understand being burnt out. I play a lot of board games and have introduce hundreds of people to the hobby. I'm kind of sick of some of the "essential" games like Munchkin, Small World, Settlers of Catan. But people new to Board Games LOVE them and want to play them all the time. They aren't bad games... I just want to play something new.

                          I usually use kid gloves for the first story in the game, even with experienced players. It gives people time to get used to Role Playing, their character, your storyteller style. Then it's all bets off. I throw them into the deep end. I force them to look up their own rules. I still offer guidance when spending XP, but I don't tell them which option is best. Basically, I let them experiment and develop their own play style.


                          Are you ready to rage? Discover if you are Brave Enough to fight for the soul of the world.

                          The Werewolf: the Apocalypse Quest updates on Mondays. All are welcome to vote.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TelperionST View Post
                            I already did that before we started the chronicle. I explained to them in detail that this is a very demanding chronicle. That they actually have to learn how the mechanics work, because unless you spend time reading the core book and thinking about how spell casting works, then you are not going to understand how Mage works. It doesn't help that the books are written in way that is...less than accessible to people new to Mage. I don't see an alternative, because if I crunch through all the mechanics then the players will never learn how it all works. They'll get a general idea of how it works. And it will slow sessions down to a crawl, because each spell requires some simple math that has a lot of variables.

                            I'm probably thinking about this backwards. I don't know.
                            Telling players "you're not going to understand this game unless you read this 300+ page tome and internalize all the rules and calculations involved", all you're going to do is intimidate them. If there's two things most people don't want to spend their free time doing, it's studying and math, and presenting the game in this way makes it feel less like fun and more like taxes.

                            What you want to do is explain the most basic form of the mechanics, the bare minimum they need to know to understand what their character's are capable of. As long as they know their characters' limitations, they can simply describe an effect they want to produce that is within their capabilities, and you can handle working out what Arcanum and Practice that falls under, how much Reach and what penalties are required to cast a spell that does that, etc. Then just tell them what to roll; e.g. "Ok, that sounds like Life plus Gnosis, minus four for increased Duration and Scale. It's also going to take five Reach to pull off and your Grasp for Life spells is only three, so I'll roll two Paradox dice. Would you like to spend any Mana to cancel those out?" If your players are satisfied with that, they really don't need to learn the system to enjoy the game. More often than not though, the players are going to start to get curious how you worked that out; they'll want to gain better system mastery so they can figure out their own spells without having to rely on you to tell them what to roll. They'll study the mechanics because they want to, not because you said they would have to before they could get to the fun part.


                            Onyx Path Forum Moderator

                            My mod voice is red. I use it so you know when I'm speaking in an official capacity, not as an indication of tone.

                            Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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                            • #15
                              Also, for 2E Mage there is handy Spell Calculator for you to use.


                              Conquest of Paradise - Fan Dark Era about Portugal and Spain conquests in XVI century - Mage & Beast ( & Hunter )
                              My Hubs - VtR 2E System Hacks, MtAw 2E Legacies and System Hacks & WtF 2E Lodges and System Hacks

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