How can everyone play the same game?


  • Admin

    I like the conversations we are having here lately as they are quite constructive and the combined experience and wisdom and differing points of view are really interesting

    One of their tangents was making sure everyone is playing the same game. That got me to thinking - how does that work? Once you have an idea, a vision for the kind of MU* you want to create... what needs to be done and what are some good ways to effectively communicate something locked in your head first to other potential staff members then to (heavens forbid) your players so everyone on roughly the same wave length?

    For example:

    • Is compromise a valuable principle at each stage of that process or does it dilute the vision? Do you need to draw lines in the sand ("my game will NOT focus on politics") or is it better to get buy-in from amalgamized contributions?

    • How useful are wikis? Do you find the information is read? How hard is it to keep it from being stale? Can it serve as a 'true north' of the MU*'s mission statement or is it just words just read over once or glossed over?

    • How important are in-game channels for the purpose of defining the game's goals and theme? Do they serve a purpose or is that lost in spam or read only by the players actively reading them at the time?

    • How critical (if at all) are the first PrPs ran either by staff or players? Speaking of, is it important - or possible! - to monitor the latter, and how can it be done efficiently without coming off as micromanaging them?

    Let's discuss.



  • This is a solid topic I'm struggling with right now for Section14. My gut is telling me the game needs to have enough pre-exisiting wiki/in-game posts/theme-oriented-code/etc to get the vision across to the first batch of players, so that chargen isn't bombed with a bunch of off-topic concepts. But, at the same time, I know the final game is going to really depend on the back-and-forth with the players that crops up as the first few plot events/PrPs get run.


  • Pitcrew

    I actually don't think there has ever been a mu out there where everyone is playing the same game, due to motivations and interests. Most games are broad enough to support politics and no politics, combat and investigation, leadership and/or structure and those who just dont utilize it or dip into it. Sometime staff does a better job than others of supporting what kinds of things they say they want to offer.

    I think though it is very important to have the same and honest layout of expectations for everyone. Behavior, mechanics, scope, boundaries of what is/isnt supported storywise, access.

    Not many places do so and even fewer reevaluate on a regular basis (I think that is important too. Drift or change in focus is not bad, but it is better when that is brought out openly as a decision, instead of unspoken with no change in news/help/policies). It's tough because it means you will disappoint some people and make them angry, and you are choosing and taking responsiblity for it, vs.doing unspoken changes which then puts the anger on players against each other for how they perceive the other as not doing/playing as they are supposed to. But people are going to be pissed either way, so imo you might as well keep focus and support clear especially as it changes.


  • Pitcrew

    We're trying to design for people to be playing different games on discworld because that world has different games in it, from Lords and ladies, to cut throat...

    It is the balance between populating enough for theme to be clear and safe, and allowing it to go off into the wild, letting players create their story.


  • Tutorialist

    @Arkandel said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    I like the conversations we are having here lately as they are quite constructive and the combined experience and wisdom and differing points of view are really interesting

    One of their tangents was making sure everyone is playing the same game. That got me to thinking - how does that work? Once you have an idea, a vision for the kind of MU* you want to create... what needs to be done and what are some good ways to effectively communicate something locked in your head first to other potential staff members then to (heavens forbid) your players so everyone on roughly the same wave length?

    One thing that I decided to do was make it as absolutely clear as I could what I expected and what they could expect from me, on an OOC level. This is why I have an going FAQ section. It's not house rules, per se, but it explains what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and how I think it should work. More importantly, it explains what we do not want to see, and the why there.

    The clearer your OOC communication on these matters, the better.

    For example:

    • Is compromise a valuable principle at each stage of that process or does it dilute the vision? Do you need to draw lines in the sand ("my game will NOT focus on politics") or is it better to get buy-in from amalgamized contributions?

    To a point. Compromise is fine when you can find a way to work it into the idea that you're trying to sell. Compromise is bad when people try and browbeat you to surrender, and then people learn that if they whine loudly and hard enough, they get whatever they want. We've seen it happen countless times.

    I'm always willing to listen, and if we can reach a mutual agreement that's awesome. But my default answer is 'no', or at best 'maybe, if you can sell me on it'. If, for whatever reason, you cannot accept that -- then we have an entirely different problem.

    • How useful are wikis? Do you find the information is read? How hard is it to keep it from being stale? Can it serve as a 'true north' of the MU*'s mission statement or is it just words just read over once or glossed over?

    I've found that most people don't read wikis. Many people gloss wikis. But they're still useful. They're useful as a respository for the stuff I've done previously. They're useful for not having to answer the same question a thousand times (usually). But most importantly, they're useful to show that, yes, in fact, this policy has been in place since god was a boy, and it was right there the whole time, I didn't just make this up to screw you over. There is a design and a plan.

    • How important are in-game channels for the purpose of defining the game's goals and theme? Do they serve a purpose or is that lost in spam or read only by the players actively reading them at the time?

    Game channels are useful for facilitating RP, but they can also go too far. Channel for every sub-group out there? You can bet that most people won't be on the main one. And most people won't be on the sub-channels either because then there are just too many channels on.

    I'll make channels for things like packs and cabals, and channels for spheres. More than that and we have to have a really good reason for doing so, or else people just use them as an extension of whatever IC/OOC hidey hole they prefer to be in.

    • How critical (if at all) are the first PrPs ran either by staff or players? Speaking of, is it important - or possible! - to monitor the latter, and how can it be done efficiently without coming off as micromanaging them?

    I do ask that logs of PrPs get posted. This is a pretty effective way of looking over everything and making sure it doesn't go off the rails. I also ask that people give me a thirty-second elevator pitch on the plot that they want to run before they run it. I can usually offer feedback and ideas on what sorts of things would be cool to include, and be on the lookout for pitfalls.

    Logger objects make posting logs painfully easy. Making scene xp contigent on the log getting posted makes these easy enough to track. You don't have to read-read it. Just skim for content. It's easy stuff.



  • @Derp said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    my default answer is 'no'

    Not "no, but"?

    Huh.

    I find that players mimic staff. Their attitude, their considerations, their unwritten rules from how they react to various situations.

    If "no" is visible to the game, then "no" will be its default too.

    At least it's "no, and here's why". A lot of staff don't even go that far.


  • Pitcrew

    I realize I'm being a bit of a peanut gallery here, but I always feel like "No and here's why" should be the default for most (not necessarily all) answers from staff, particularly if it touches on points of theme. Not all points can be disclosed in detail, especially if the subject involves any ongoing plots and metaplots, but I do think being terse should be avoided more often than not.



  • One of the big ones is something the board has touched on briefly in other threads over the past year or so: have a mission statement.

    Have one summary sentence. Give it a paragraph or two explaining what this means.

    Everything else -- on game, wiki, or wherever this information can be found -- should support this statement, be it code, policy, RPG system, grid design, etc.

    This is not the same as theme. Most games have multiple themes at play at any given time. Making a list of these concepts -- again, a single summary statement and a brief explanation is most useful here. This is where you talk about the kinds of stories you want to tell.

    Policy should make sense. If your game is PvP, policy should support this. If your game is strictly collaborative and consent-based, your policy should be structured to support this. Policy is not one size fits all. This is where you talk about the way you want the community to behave in relation to one another.

    The RPG system should do what you want to see on the game, and not do the things you don't want to see on the game. This may require house rules if you are using an existing system; make them clear and explain why they're there. If you're making a system from scratch, don't set it up to do things you don't want happening on the game.

    The grid is your playground. If you're cool with people holing up in small groups, provide for this in some form. If you want to make every scene publicly accessible to all at any time, build the grid in that way instead.

    This is all a matter of making choices, explaining those choices and what they will mean for the players, and maintaining consistency regarding those choices.


  • Tutorialist

    @Thenomain said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    "no, but"?

    In practice, it usually works out to "no, but."

    BUT. That also has come back to backfire on me in the past too. People will make some outrageous demand, and then expect me to compromise down to something I would have said no to in the first place under the "no, but" framework.

    ETA: The perfect example of this is the current mishmash of rules that govern the Werewolf renown system.

    I find "no, and here's why" is a better solution for that, even if in actual practice it turns into more "no, and here's why, but we can maybe do this thing which might work for you."


  • Pitcrew

    So 'everyone playing the same game' is something I have shouted about for years, so when i say it, these are my goals, generally. Note: I play almost exclusively WoD.

    • If 3 different people ask 3 different staffers the same question, the answer should generally be the same.
    • You cant have one sphere being super draconic in rules and whatever, and another be totally lazy-fair. Coherence.
    • You are not playing in a bubble, even if you don't interact much with the rest of the game, your actions happen in the same reality as everyone else. The same story/timeline/etc applies.


  • @Derp said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    That also has come back to backfire on me in the past too.

    Name me anything on this Earth that has not come back to bite someone in the past.

    Balancing the positive with the negative is staff's burden. Those who can't or refuse to do so shouldn't be staff.

    I was mostly testing your "a flat no by fiat" response, which in spite of how you phrased it isn't "a flat no by fiat". Which is more than fair.


  • Tutorialist

    @Wretched said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    You cant have one sphere being super draconic in rules and whatever, and another be totally lazy-fair. Coherence.

    This one I don't totally agree with. It depends on the sphere, and the rules.

    I make mages wait longer times to raise their Arcana than a werewolf to raise their Renown, or Gifts, for example. because there just aren't that many of them, and they do more.

    I also require some spheres to write backgrounds, because they're much more essential to me figuring out where the hell they fit in and what they're going to be up to. They get the bonus xp for it, though, so it's not like it's super disparate treatment. By the time we get through the chargen job, you basically write one anyway.

    Other stuff, not. Equipment runs the same, mundane spends run the same. Etc. But treating each sphere as if it were wholly identical, when they are not wholly identical, is how you end up with some crazy shit.


  • Pitcrew

    @Derp I see what you mean and I generally agree, but we've also had issues where apping into one sphere was a breeze, and other they wanted you to do 45236 detailed questions about why you couldn't tie your own shoes until the 4th grade.

    For sphere specific stuff that is different yes absolutely, the process for learning supernatural stuff is super different. I think it's a matter of degrees. It should still feel like the same game, and not run into that one staffer that treats the sphere like it's his baby and no one is ever good enough. (Yes i also realize that that description applies to me in the past and I recognize this.. ahem.)


  • Pitcrew

    So my gut feeling is that, even if "no" isn't a default answer, it should be one staff is ready to give.

    A game can & often should have a lot of things going on. You can have action, TS, horror, TS, personal plot, TS, mystery, and TS comfortably on the same game. It's fine if a given player is only interested in some subset of the whole deal. But it needs to feel like it could all be taking place in the same... work? Reference frame?

    Anything collaborative is going to have some give and take as a core part of the experience. But that's why staff should be giving some boundaries for people to play in, as I see it. If I want to play a given MU*, presumably it's because I like the theme behind it. If staff doesn't put their foot down every now and then, it's... likely the theme will become unrecognizable fairly soon.

    So, say, if I were making... iunno, a Wild West game in a frontier town. It's true that samurai were a contemporary thing for the period. A samurai who wound up halfway across the planet could even be a cool PC. But if half the players apped in samurai, at some point I feel like I'm barely running a Wild West game anymore.



  • @insomniac7809

    I am slightly curious about this "TS Mystery" genre.

    ... Oh, wait, there's the comma. Hahahaha, my bad.


  • Admin

    @Derp said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    ETA: The perfect example of this is the current mishmash of rules that govern the Werewolf renown system.

    I find "no, and here's why" is a better solution for that, even if in actual practice it turns into more "no, and here's why, but we can maybe do this thing which might work for you."

    Personally speaking I found that your Werewolf policies didn't fit me. Which was okay, since that meant it wasn't the right game for me, so at least I didn't have to invest too much in it before I found out.

    The thread's title can cut both ways. Nothing wrong with that.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain An orgy in the dark with blindfolds. It was Col. Mustard in the Boudoir with rope and a candlestick.



  • A few ideas:

    1. Literally make sure everyone is playing the same game.

    Some players dont care which game they're on so long as they have a playspace. I've seen playing role-playing anime on WoD games, Zorbing/Legos on Battlestars, and even one character that was Robert Downey Jr in blackface (a la Tropic Thunder) fighting a refugee war against Cylons while making comments about Alabama. Some players sneak off to corners to use the playspace as whatever they want. There are ways to make it clear what staff expects in terms of theme, but I also think it's okay to add a line about "being here to play THIS game to the +accept

    1. Set further expectations

    Not just policy expectations, but the kind of RP the staff seek to generate on the game. Some players make characters that are in contradiction to a game's theme then bemoan lack of RP. If staff wanna see dice, risk, and maybe even PC death? Be up front. If the idea for the game is to be a less "super hero" WoD and a more "Sin City" feel? Be up front. Be clear about what kind of game this is to supplement what boundaries you're expecting players to draw within

    1. Say "No".

    Don't want to be negative here, but when players make concepts that don't make sense, it's okay to tell them no. If your game is about a genocidal war and you get an app for an "antisocial pacifist who refuses to involve in combat scenes or scenes depicting military", then rather than go "okay, good luck" it may be better to let them know the concept won't work with the game. If they persist that that's what they wanna play? Then they should play that in a place that thinks it's a good fit.



  • @Thenomain said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    @insomniac7809

    I am slightly curious about this "TS Mystery" genre.

    ... Oh, wait, there's the comma. Hahahaha, my bad.

    @Wretched hahahaha TS mystery...

    ...at night I laid beside her, and from the corner of my eye I saw she had left her phone on its 'photos' page. Which brought me to question...

    Why is there a picture of my Uncle Steve on her Phone?



  • @Arkandel said in How can everyone play the same game?:

    Once you have an idea, a vision for the kind of MU* you want to create... what needs to be done and what are some good ways to effectively communicate something locked in your head first to other potential staff members then to (heavens forbid) your players so everyone on roughly the same wave length?

    Something I haven't seen since Aether: Have a test at the end of chargen.

    It might be surprising that I'm advocating hoops to jump through, but if you make it mild then this way you can make sure that players aren't skimming, or if they are skimming then they recognize that this particular thing is important.

    I know a lot of people who say if people don't know everything then that's on them. That's fine. I'm not saying they are wrong. Yes, even "we won't hand-hold" is a policy decision.

    But man did we almost never get any confusion on Aether for what it was about, or what the various races and factions were about. They weren't even hard questions, by design, but forced people to be aware how the pre-wiki was laid out and that they could rely on the help of their fellow players.

    "How many magic types can elves learn?"
    "How many weeks idle until we put a character on ice?"
    "When did Aether split from Earth?"

    Five questions and you're out.


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