Saturday, October 10, 2015

You are NOT in control

Seriously. You aren't.
You may think you are. You may even feel like a tabletop ST who has the opportunity to look a player in the eyes and say, "That's the part of the dungeon that I haven't finished yet and you feel strangely compelled to avoid."
But you can't do that in a large scale dynamic game.
It flatly doesn't work, and the more you try to shove the game back into the place you think it ought to be, the more you will reek of desperation and insecurity. You will run yourself ragged trying to force people to play the game you want them to play and when the smoke clears, many many many of your players will have decided to move on to go play something else, because you decided to strangle the game to death.
I've often said that running a Larp or a large chat ought to be a complete cure for control freak tendencies. Clearly, it is not, as many games seem to soldier on even though their putative parents are trying to kill them because it doesn't fit with their vision of how things ought to be. No one seems to ask themselves the pertinent question: What would I rather have? A game that is exactly how I envision it with a microscopically small player base, or to release my grip some and have scads of happy players talking up my game to anyone they meet.
This is not to say that you can't do some enforcement, and the very nature of being in charge means you have to say no sometimes. But you have to find a balance that works for you AND your players.
Here's a tip: If you find that you get freaked out when players come to you asking about a plot you know nothing about. You're too controlling. Also, you might want to think about not going to great lengths to stomp it out, unless it's ACTIVELY dangerous to the entire game. Players are inventive. They come up with their own things all the time, also, information can get garbled in the re-telling, this can generate weird player action all by itself. If a player comes to you asking about something you've never heard about, your correct response is to say, "I don't know anything about that. Why don't you tell me about it." But if two factions are playing a game of He said/She said and you come in like a house on fire and start bubbling scenes and locking threads. Then you deserve to have bad things happen to you. Like to have a significantly large portion of your player base vanish.
Never mind the guy who comes to you and says, "I have a problem with the way this is being done." Odds are fairly good that he's ALREADY done and planning to go. It's the half dozen friends he has who see how he or she is threatened with banning for being critical. They'll just melt away like dew on the spring grass.
And what's THAT about anyway? Sure, bounce someone for sexual harassment or creeper behavior. Bounce someone who walks around doing PK for giggles, (although sooner or later the players will do it for you, if you don't) Bounce someone for racist, creedist, sexist, bullshit in the foyer. But threaten to bounce someone for being critical?
That's bullshit and if your admin catches you doing it, you're the one ought to be bounced. Oh sure, players may be less than gentle in explaining what they don't like and why they don't like it. God knows i've burned a bridge or two while i was standing on it, because my exasperation overcame my general tendency to diplomacy. That's all a matter of public record really. But honestly, it was the hail mary pass, because I wanted to continue playing but i just couldn't see how.
Look: Your job as a storyteller in a large scale dynamic game is not the same as it is in a much more intimate tabletop arena. In a tabletop game, you are essentially trying to get disparate players to play as a team by throwing common enemies at them and hoping they develop some sticky. This means playing all the little roles and developing all the antagonists. But in a Large Scale Dynamic game, Your main job is to create a setting, have things floating around in that setting for players to bump into, and stir the pot OCCASIONALLY. Odds are good that if you're doing things right, you have to do very little and your player base will be able to do fine with only a couple of scenes a month. Most of their problems will be generated by the OTHER PLAYERS. I've had great nights at larps where all I had to do was walk around, observe and answer questions. THAT is victory conditions. You shouldn't want to run everything. You should want everything to more or less run itself.
As I always say, Yes, plan events, but don't EVER plan the reactions to those events. I've seen ST's flip out because they did something unfair to a player, and the rest of his covenant ended up siding with him instead of the Elder chewing him out. And these were INVICTUS players! You are not smart enough, hell I'M not smart enough to determine exactly how players are going to react to stimulus. Players are, as i said, endlessly inventive. And you should let them be, or at least not act surprised when they leave your game.
This can be a bitter pill to swallow but the alternative is to be blind to problems in your game, I can remember hearing a ST bitching about how nobody seems to looking into any of his plot bombs and how nobody fucking cares about this fucking game and how every can just go screw themselves… At least until someone in the room at the time piped up and said, "Hey…Um. You're usually only on at about 4am and it may take a few days for plot to filter out to players who aren't."
That guy got banned.
That was pretty much it for me.
Large scale dynamic games are a collaborative art-form. They REQUIRE collaboration in order to work properly. If you're too much of a control freak, or sunk down so far into siege mentality that you automatically assume that anyone requesting anything is looking for a way to fuck up your game, you may need a long lay-off. Or go play…Maybe, remembering what it's like to play is what you really need.


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