Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why crossover games suck!

Ok. I admit, I expect a bunch of pushback on this, but I'm going to simply come out and say it.
I don't think Crossover games work very well.
I've played a few. I ran a tabletop game for about 7 years that went all over the map in terms of crossover. (Mage:The Ascencion was the primary game and it seemed to handle crossover better than other games.) And I'm not saying that crossover games can't be fun.
But in my completely arrogant bastard opinion, they are simply not my cup of tea anymore.

I feel, that crossover games, by their nature dilute the themes, tones, and tropes of their constituent games. Moreover, I find that any part of a particular that players are prone to elide because it makes them uncomfortable or is inconvenient (I.E. Feeding and humanity loss in Vampire) gets lost in the shuffle entirely in a crossover game. Various player types stop being monsters. The tendency is for groups of players to stop dealing with the scarier elements of their essential natures and morph into kind of supernatural Sentai team.

Needless to say, running any kind of real horror story is right out. There's no sense of immersion, also there's no real sense of running up against something that your player Back-brain, isn't trying to stat up based on OOC knowledge. Also, there's the problem of one group having some supernatural based problem and being able to just hand it off to some other group. Vampires who run afoul of ghost are usually S.O.L. Most of their powers have nothing that works on them. But if the Prince can just call up the local head of the Sin Eaters, well. That sorts that out toot de suite.

Another problem with a crossover game is nobody you meet is going to be a plain vanilla human. Why in the hell would you play one in toybox full of exotic toys? Some people DO play P.V. Humans, but then they get other players fighting over them like some precious resource. The only exception that I ever had was character in a crossover game, that I had decided was destined to be a Vigil hunter. This was some months before the release of Vigil. I made a character with the idea in mind that he'd level up in mundane stuff pretty fast. (It's amazing what you can get for your points when you aren't supernatural.) And then once Vigil came out, the ST staff came together and decided they didn't want IC hunters in their game. I thought it was kind of a jack move, but hey, I didn't run the place. Eventually I elected to make him into a mage, but it just wasn't the same, and I dropped the character after that.

Let me put it this way, If nobody walking around in your crossover town is likely to be a P.V. Human or even a half template like a ghoul, or Second Sighter, Then whole SECTIONS of the game never come into play. Frankly, I'm of the opinion that Vampires need humans to rub up against in order for Vampire to be Vampire. If most of the players you bump into are in the know, the masquerade stops being something that you work to protect and becomes a minor inconvenience when talking out loud at one of the buck-jillion nightclubs littering the supernatural landscape.

Additionally, In crossover games you stop being in charge of your own game. When players begin to contend with one another, the ST's have to get involved and try to resolve it, usually in manner that leaves no one satisfied. Rarely, if ever, do things degenerate into a full-on war between the Supernatural races. But what this means is that often terms,methodology, and policy ends up being dictated by the Storyteller who is the biggest whiner. 

Recently, I was helping a friend build a venue for a site that will remain nameless here. We were trying to build a vampire venue and had made a few design choices already. We were taking over the former venue because the old ST had just had a baby and was swamped. Hey, it happens.
We were told at the outset that there were certain design characteristics from the old game that we'd have to live with, and after some discussion, we decided we could. So we began building. After submitting some guidelines on character creation, we were greeted with a chorus of squeaking and beeping from all of the other ST's that you'd have thought we'd killed Christ.

See, what they'd told us, was that we'd have a number of months as a venue by ourselves, and then after a while, we'd become a crossover venue. Which as you can imagine, didn't make me overjoyed. But apparently, a decision was made, without our input that the crossover would be moved up to the opening of our venue.
The next thing that occurred was that the Changeling ST threw a hissy fit, because we'd planned to allow our player to front load their characters. (Our plan was for most of them to be Ancillae level.) She went mental about the fact that we were going to give them any points at all. Even though her Changeling venue had been running the better part of a year, she opined that beginning vampires would be able to roll anyone in her venue. We dropped down to 10 points and a few free dots of Haven and things like that, and she still cried and carried on like she was having a nervous breakdown. Sadly, the head ST of the place and the owner, wasn't exactly much of an Alpha wolf about the whole thing. So we were constantly being hassled to re-tool our game over and over and over again.
Eventually, I tapped my wrist and looked at my friend with the questioning look, but he was convinced he could still save it. Who knows. I pulled the ripcord and then heard from him the whole sordid story of how it all flamed out.
Lest you think this was an aberration, I've heard more than one story of an ST finding out that another ST was wandering around in the forums of their games and causing trouble with the players of the other venue. I'm sure there are people here who've seen it happen.

I don't know about you, but I want to make decisions about the sort of game I run without having to worry about making a case to some other ST's about whether I can do it. I can tell you definitively that if you're another ST and you come around and say, "You can't do that." my response will be, "Watch me, fucker."

And here's another thing, If I want to run a Vampire game, or a game of Vigil, or something like that. I Do NOT WANT to have to have to be up on Changeling, which I don't dig, on the off chance that some Changeling will take it into his fool head to wander into the middle of my pissed-off vampires or hunters. I already have more to read than I know what to do with. My knowledge of the games I run is going to be comprehensive. My knowledge of whatever you're playing over there is going to be. "Eh. fuck it. He dies from sheer weight of numbers." And you know what, I don't really care what your Storyteller has to say about it. YOU DON'T BELONG IN MY GAME.  I am GOING to protect its integrity, even if that means killing you every single time you come around.  Assuming of course, you can't take a hint. I'll even have my elder bad-asses turn up, rip you to pieces, and punt your head over the St. Louis arch.

Look in my eyes and determine whether I am kidding or not.
If I'm storytelling, and my characters are having cross-over trouble with another group of Supernatural critters, there may come a day when I say to the other ST.  "One more incident, and the war we don't want to have happen, is going to happen.  And your players will lose. Rein them in, or reap the whirlwind."

So. If you're an Admin for a site somewhere, do yourself, and your players a favor. Make the games separate and discrete. Do not give into pressure from the players who are suffering from delusions that crossover games are cool and fun and I think I was in one that was cool that one time... Players have a tendency towards amnesia about how cross-overs tend to work out. Trust me. I know.


At 8:25 AM, Blogger Preston said...

I've got differing opinions on this, but honestly it's all up to the players involved. If they are comfortable with it, then I'm fine learning all the WoD games well enough to be a general subject matter resource for them. I've never found another storyteller who honestly wanted to put that much time into it, however. When Blood and Bourbon decided to become 'crossover friendly' they designated each of three or four Storytellers to learn one or more lines of the game, which means if that storyteller is busy, or isn't there, then you get stuck not actually advancing your plot because no one else knows how to run it. I even offered to write up small resource guides for each game line so that everyone could at least learn the basics, to no good end. So yeah, depending on the scope of the game and the dedication / interest of staff, this can be a good or bad thing.


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