When Do We Game?

I played diceless Vampire: the Masquerade earlier today.

Despite my hatred of all things oWoD, simulationist, or diceless, I played it.  Up until the last half-hour, (when I started pulling out all the stops) I was pretty much bored to pieces.

So sorry Tim, I won’t be playing in your game again.  It’s not for me, at all.

As one of Tim’s friends once said about Prime Time Adventures, “When are we going to actually roleplay?”  I ask:  “When are we going to actually play the game?”

(See to me, the meat of gaming is about conflict.  If there’s an omniscient, or close to it, narrator who can basically call any conflict as he sees it, there’s no challenge, and therefore absolutely no point.)


9 thoughts on “When Do We Game?

  1. Daniel says:

    Hey, can you talk about what happened in the game and around the table a little bit? I’m interested.


  2. Tim says:

    That’s perfectly ok Willow. I succeeded in showing you what a session of the game is like. ETB is a horror/suspense soap opera. Glimpsing one episode of that doesn’t give you much of a frame of reference.

    While I do call many (not all) of the external conflicts as I see them, it’s really not about ‘challenge’. To quote Vincent Baker, it’s about Being There.

    Daniel, you probably wouldn’t enjoy hearing about the in-game events much, and it may require me to provide a lot of context. You might also be astonished if you sawe the behavior of some of my players during the game, but that’s something I would rather discuss elsewhere.

  3. Daniel says:

    I was pretty honestly curious about both, Tim, even though I feel you’re right; I probably wouldn’t enjoy it outright.

    I’m mostly interested in hearing about say, pacing, and screen time, and that sort of thing. Like, what happens and how much gets done and what it takes to get there in a game of ETB. I have very little experience with diceless RPGing.


  4. Tim says:

    Check your emails. 🙂

  5. Willow says:

    I’m going to blame most of my not-fun on System Mattering, but Tim does have to take the blame on one front:

    When you have a new or guest player to your game, do not spend over an hour waiting to get to them while you dally on stuff your regular players are doing, especially if it bears no relationship with the information you’ve provided them with.

    It was at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half, before I ever got to prepare to actually do anything, and at least three before I did anything remotely engaging.

    Also, at no point did I engage any of the regular character in conversation (not that either of us really had any reason to do so.)

    One thing I noticed is that there was a lot of out of character chatter, joking, and I even had to ask several times if people’s remarks were in and out of character. Tim, if your goal is to provide total immersion, then I think you’re failing.

  6. Willow says:

    Oh, and Daniel, here’s the in-character events, as I recall them.

    *Half the party confronts two crazy NPCs about something and are very mysterious about it. One of the crazy NPCs mysteriously arranges to mysteriously meet with one of the PCs the next day and tell him their plans. The PCs steal the NPCs computer, who don’t seem to really object for some reason.

    *The other half reacts all ZOMG to some vision.

    *Unnecessary logistics about how people will travel back to Detroit. This takes roughly a half hour, and includes pointless discussion about VIN numbers. If your character has larceny, you can make your car untraceable! You don’t need to know out of character how to do it- that’s what stats (and dice) are for!

    *I show up at the Vampire rave/brawl, find out some color background, and meet with one of my contacts. One of my listed objectives on my char sheet is to find out information about the Detroit champion’s weaknesses, which I seem to have absolutely no means to do in character.

    *Something with cellphones not being able to work and vampires being difficult to find, which may be part of some metaplot, or may just have served to railroad half the party to the burnt out factory/arena.

    *Color description of opening fights. Nothing happens. I get to fight some guy from Windsor. Tim asks me what I do. I say, “Well, I fight him. Either I beat him or I don’t.” What am I supposed to say? There’s no combat maneuvers or dice rolls or any tactical choice for me to make. I beat him.

    *Something with The Bishop, and characters taking some out of towner who knows and doesn’t like him wanting to find someone specific, and the Bishop taking them through some door that is in someway special, because it was used by someone like nine years ago (real time) or something. The whole encounter doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, since it seems like everyone involved hates everyone else, yet no one dies or explodes.

    *I fight the Detroit champion, an NPC. This fight actually is kind of interesting, because Tim approaches it in phases, sort of in a round-by-round strategy sort of way. Other players are giving me ‘helpful’ combat suggestions, which I find really really annoying, because if I beat this thing, I want to do it because *I* had the good idea, not because someone else did. I end up climbing onto the giant vampires back and punching it in the head a whole lot. 🙂

    *A peace-and-harmony hippie vampire shows up. My mission instructions say I’m supposed to kill him in an obvious and fearsome manner and sow chaos. I say “Caine says you can die!” because I figure I want to sound really ominous, and then I TURN INTO A FRICKIN’ DRAGON AND BITE HIS HEAD OFF.

    There are stunned looks from around the table. I make munching noises while other players ask the GM if the NPC is actually dead or not, figure out if any vampire laws have been broken and if they need to do anything, and then try to use powers to subtly (and ineffectively) stop me.

    The crazy Detroit monster champion is getting back up, so I go and bite off HER head, and wrap my tail around my magic sword.

    (Yes, Tim gave me an Invincible Sword Princess.)

    At this point, more questions of ‘wait, did she really kill that guy?’

    I need to get away now, and I can only take dragon form once a night, so if I shift back, they’re likely to jump me. So I fly out the shattered top of the building, landing in the parking lot amongst screaming mortals in the rave propper, and fleeing vampires.

    I ponder my next move. My character sheet says I can breathe fire. Well, I only play once, right? I start (out of character) giggling maniacally as I realize what I’m about to do. Then I start breathing fire on random members of the crowd.

    Other players continue to look on in shock. “So, does this like, count as a masquerade breach that we need to deal with?” asks a player.

    (Remember kids: if you’re in enemy territory and trying to sow chaos, NOTHING beats a blatant, wide-scale masquerade breach, as long as you can survive long enough to get away. It ties up the locals for days, if not weeks, cleaning up your mess. And besides, it’s not like the mortals ever actually band together and destroy all vampire-kind as a result of these things. They always take care of themselves, one way or another.)

    Now the part where they try to kill me while getting away.

    I turn back into a person, and get on my motorcycle. Unfortunately, a pc spots me, and levitates my cycle off the ground. I get off and prepare to run away with Celerity, but then I start floating. Drat. Another one comes up to just kill me, so I turn into black mist and run away, hiding in the smoke that fills the Detroit skyline.

    *Len congradulates me. I leave to get to work.

  7. Daniel says:

    Hey, Willow, thanks for the in-character events. How long was the session? Would you say a decent amount of story got created in that time?


  8. Willow says:

    About 3 and a half, maybe four hours.

    As far as I could tell, there was about fifteen minutes of what I would actually call ‘story’. Dan’s character meeting with the crazy NPC contact and getting a hold of an important notebook (which I left out of my writeup, because it had slipped my mind), and maybe some of The Bishop-esque conversations. Everything before what I did felt like they were going through the motions of finishing up storylines from the week before, and my stuff really just seemed to be a prelude for something to come.

  9. Tim says:

    Thanks for this mini Actual Play, Willow. I can see how lack a familiarity with ongoing events colors your perspective, and the areas where I could have handled things a lot better. I’m going to cross post this to the game’s email list. Also, the cell phone trouble was both meta-plot and railroading. The players should have seen that coming.

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